Tag Archives: Labour

Tony Blair’s strategic move to oust Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

Contrary to popular opinion, Tony Blair is not an idiot – idiots don’t win three general elections. Furthermore, Blair isn’t out of sync with the British people either. A classy manipulator, the former prime minister used his anti-Brexit speech not to orchestrate an uprising against Britain’s departure from the European Union, but to strike a blow closer to home.

Blair’s move is a bold and strategic effort to oust Labour leader and destructor Jeremy Corbyn, by dousing petrol on an already rip-roaring fire.

There’s no coincidence that he gave his high-profile whinge less than a week before two crunch by-elections – one in Copeland, the other in Stoke-on-Trent. The former went 62 percent for Leave while the latter chalked up a whopping 70 percent Brexit vote. Both are, at least for a few more days, Labour-held constituencies. If Blair has his way, neither will be come 24 February.

Why does Blair want Labour to lose? Because two by-election losses by a party in opposition would undoubtedly spell doom for their leader, especially as a Stoke-on-Trent Central defeat equates to a UK Independence Party and Paul Nuttall triumph. With UKIP promising to leech on Labour’s northern, working class vote, a Stoke win would knock the first brick from the wall.

Bookmakers have Copeland trending towards the Tories, while Labour are narrow favourites in Stoke following Nuttall’s Hillsborough gaffe, which is appropriately now old news. In 2015, the combined UKIP-Tory Stoke vote bested Labour, making a purple heist and a first home-grown UKIP parliamentary win realistic.

Blair has no stock as a positive influence – you’ll struggle to find a more loathed British politician, and he’s not blinded by narcissism enough to be unaware. However, being loathed brings a few benefits, not least Blair’s ability to be a negative influence.

With more than two decades’ experience in understanding and capitalising on the public’s psyche, Blair, like President Donald Trump, knows exactly what to say to get exactly what he wants. Give it a fortnight and no one will care what this political has-been said, but for the next few days it’s juicy content.

What better Brexit rallying cry than a detested ex-PM who wants to thwart the will of the British people? It’ll likely be even more effective in Stoke, since immigration concerns are invariably blamed on Blair and Labour. Brexiteers are already cashing in, their obvious narratives sure winners. We may even see a Blair piñata before the show’s over.

It’s unlikely there’d ever be an era suited to a Blair comeback, but you won’t find tougher than this anti-establishment one. But Labour rightly realise that Calamity Corbyn has to go, and anything which can bring that reality closer will be secretly cheered – there’s no way Corbyn critic Tristram Hunt wasn’t aware of the implications when he resigned from Stoke either.

For all the talk of a strong democracy having a strong opposition, the last thing Conservatives and Brexiteers need at this moment is Corbyn’s resignation. His haplessness gives Theresa May and her government the necessary breathing space – and huge polling lead – to handle the country’s trickiest negotiations in generations.

An effective opposition would be primed to cash in on perhaps inevitable Brexit fallout with their vision for the nation. Instead, Corbyn, a closet Brexiter who choked and campaigned to Remain, took months to try and establish his party’s position on the issue – not helped by a poorly-timed leadership contest – before leaving many incandescent after giving May a “blank cheque”.

For Labour, the party’s survival is much more important than backlash from Moany Tony’s speech – short-term pain for long-term gain. If Blair’s blathering compromises Labour next week, Corbyn could be out soon after, starting a difficult but not impossible search for a talented leader in a talentless party.

Brexiteers should hold off on the celebrations for now.

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Sleaford and North Hykeham: Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

It’s a stunning indictment of our current politics that UKIP finishing a poor second in a by-election is more noteworthy than Labour ending up in fourth. But that’s what happened in Sleaford and North Hykeham as the Conservatives cruised to a comfortable 40-point victory on a 37 percent turnout on Thursday night.

It was a nice win for the Tories, who secured a rare by-election triumph while in government, made even better by the disarray plaguing the rest. Their candidate, Caroline Johnson, was expected to be tested by UKIP’s Victoria Ayling in an area where 61 percent voted for Brexit, but the challenge failed to materialise with the latter managing a low 13.5 percent – a 2.2-percent decline on the party’s performance at the last general election.

UKIP will undoubtedly spin the result and celebrate jumping Labour, but it was a dire effort in a seat where they were hoping to at least run the Conservatives close. Opinion polls have had them holding firm between 10 and 15 percent despite a dreadful few months and the departure of Nigel Farage, but the steady support has yet to translate into electoral success, or even hints of it.

Without being on the ground it’s tough to ascertain exactly went wrong, but one constant is Ayling, who also failed to make an impact in Great Grimsby in 2015, a constituency UKIP firmly believed they could win – she ended up third, behind Labour and the Conservatives, albeit increasing the party’s vote share by almost 19 percent.

Stability finally seems to be coming to UKIP with Paul Nuttall’s election as leader, and the debate will undoubtedly shift back their way if the Brexit process is messy, but they have dropped the ball since 23 June, to the Tories’ delight.

More woe for Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has enjoyed some friendly elections since becoming Labour leader, from safe by-elections to the London mayoral election which was won by Sadiq Khan earlier this year. Such wins have emboldened Corbynites who believe their man is miscast and more popular than conventional wisdom says.

However, this vote, along with last week’s by-election in Richmond Park – where they failed to even save their deposit – should provide a shuddering reality check. In Sleaford and North Hykeham, candidate Jim Clarke tallied just 10.2 percent – a 7.1 percent slip on 2015 – and was fewer than 500 votes from being pushed into fifth by the Lincolnshire Independents.

Labour’s Brexit dilemma is worsened by the party’s rural-urban divide which threatens its electoral existence. With many Labour constituencies in the north supporting Britain’s succession from the European Union, and a leader who has historically been keener for it than Prime Minister Theresa May, there’s reason to believe they’d benefit from embracing it – at least that would give them somebody to speak for.

They certainly aren’t going to be the party for Remainers, as Richmond Park showed. The Liberal Democrats have their tanks on that ground, but their 11 percent on less-friendly territory suggests talk of their resurgence has been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, with Richmond Park voting 70 percent to Remain, it could be argued that the Lib Dems’ 49 percent in the by-election was below par.

A further test for Labour will come in Leigh should Andy Burnham win the Greater Manchester mayoral election. Nuttall is being touted to stand in the by-election, which will indicate whether the party really can bash Labour in their heartlands.

Tories cash in on rivals’ incompetence

May has repeatedly said Article 50 will be activated before the end of March 2017, so she and her party has until then before the waters start getting choppy – and they’re cashing in on it. Sleaford and North Hykeham was always set to be a good barometer on how Leavers felt the Brexit process was being handled, and 53 percent strikes as a solid approval.

It’s not all to the Tories’ credit, however. With their rivals looking decidedly hopeless, their job right now is hardly difficult. Despite having a narrow working majority in the Commons, they face no apparent danger from anywhere – not bad for a party that was supposed to tear itself to shreds over the referendum.

If there were any concerns for May, their easy win on Thursday should alleviate them. Christmas has come early for her and, with the abysmal state of the rest, gifts could be pouring in for a while yet.

I saw the personal attacks, and I hated them

I saw photos in the Daily Mail over the weekend of defeated Labour hopeful Ed Miliband smiling with his family. Finally, the politics had been stripped away, the bacon sandwich gaffes gone, the “Hell Yes” jibes forgotten and even the infamous Ed Stone banished for all time.

I saw a man who had suffered vitriolic attack after vitriolic attack. A man who I vehemently disagreed with on a political level, but a good person, undeserving of the bile flung at him. There was something very American about this election – where the cornerstone of every bid is negativity – something that is profoundly un-British.

I saw someone who was standing up for what he believed in. Now, I’m not quite sure what that was – I think one of Labour’s biggest failures was that they were unclear on what, and who they were trying to attract – but again, the politics of it is irrelevant. His seemingly sturdy stance on ruling out an alliance with the Scottish National Party was also commendable. He went so far that had he backtracked in order to gain power he would have been an outright liar; something I think Miliband tried valiantly, if unsuccessfully to achieve.

I saw a man who fought an election with dignity, and to be attacked without relent for who he was, and not what he stood for was wrong. Our country is one of the world’s most proficient in the art of mocking, and long may that continue, but as the election wore on, the smokescreen of satire became increasingly transparent, it was no longer pure comedy.

I saw a man who also got things wrong. His unerring, robust defence of Blair and Brown’s premiership on the subject of overspending was a poor move. When the crunch comes, taking a left jab instead of risking a more punishing right hook is sometimes just common sense.

I saw what a nasty place our politics has become. While the Right obsessed over Miliband, the Left spewed hate over Nigel Farage. Neither side were at all justified in their actions. When all is said and done they are real people with real families. Yes, by standing for public office you throw yourself into the cauldron of scrutiny, but I am not sure what political capital can be gained by such personal abuse. Both wing’s willingness to partake in such methods make them equally culpable, it is not a matter of who was worse, but I would hope that such unpalatable tactics are never indulged in on these shores again. Of course, if a party tries to go down such a route by all means they are entitled to. But perhaps the opposition shouldn’t fight fire with fire, but bring the hosepipe out instead.

I saw the mistakes I made as well. Too often I criticised Miliband for being Miliband, when there would have been more weight attacking him as the leader of Labour – it’s not like it would have been difficult. To the credit of the UK Independence Party, the abuse they suffered did not lead them to be similarly vile to their opponents. And Farage also commented on multiple occasions that the media’s assault on Miliband was unjust.

I saw the #Milifandom. The army of teenage girls who switched their attention away from Niall and Harry, if only briefly. Naive and keen on Labour’s policies, probably; but they too touched on the unfair treatment Miliband received, and in their own way tried to deal with it.

I saw someone who, deep down, I think is a good person. And whatever he does next, whether it be continuing to serve as a Member of Parliament for Doncaster North following the five years he has just been elected for, or whether he finds enjoyment in a life away from politics, I hope he finds happiness. I truly do.

Think tank calls for “Transgender PM”

A first transgender prime minister would greatly benefit Britain, according to a left-wing think tank.

The suggestion was made at the annual conference of Liberals4UK – a group who claims to draw attention to “major social issues which don’t actually exist”.

The organisation’s president, Les Smith – who would not confirm their gender – said: “We’ve had centuries of white, middle-aged men running the country, along with one women who looked like one.

“Instead of having a male or a female, who would of course prioritise their own gender’s demands, we believe that by endorsing a transgender candidate, neutrality can be achieved once and for all in Westminster.”

The idea has been slammed by realists who considered it “barmy”, while others complained about “wanting their country back” and hoped that a transgender PM “wouldn’t be an immigrant”.

A Pie in the Sky News reporter questioned Smith on the feasibility of the concept who commented: “It’s simply untrue to claim that a transgender can’t attract votes across the political spectrum.

“In 1998 Dana International stormed to victory for Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest, while bearded-lady Conchita Wurst cemented a triumph for Austria at the most recent edition of the event.

“There is no reason why this can’t translate into parliamentary elections,” said Smith.

Cornish Talks failed in their efforts to contact Labour leader Ed Miliband – an intern at the party’s office claimed he was “still trying to cover the evidence from stabbing his own brother in the back.

We did however speak to Ed Noballs, who could potentially be the country’s next chancellor. He said: “I completely agree with the claims made by Liberals4UK.

“Providing it is likely to win votes, Labour will enact a policy requiring all-transgender shortlists for prospective parliamentary candidates in constituencies scattered across the country.

“We will not however bother at our Scottish branch where it seems we are totally fucked.”

Liberals4UK also made headlines last year when they proposed that the long-standing green benches in the House of Commons should be replaced by a rainbow.

The UK’s next general election will take place next month on 7 May.

Disclaimer: For those lacking a sense of humour I can confirm that this story is a work of fiction. I cannot, however, confirm that it will not be true at a later date.

You’re a tax avoider? Let me buy you a pint

What’s that? You haven’t been paying your taxes? You haven’t been succumbing your hard-earned pennies to a government who think they know how to spend them better than you? Good for you, fancy a pint?

Tax avoidance is always a favourite for those seeking their daily dose of outrage, and one the socialists are never slow to sink their teeth into. Whether it be Starbucks, Apple or perhaps Gary Barlow, you can guarantee someone is plotting their trip to the gallows. If you want to find one, they can usually be located supping a cappuccino, pumping out some Take That, while tweeting live updates via their new iPhone 6.

I subscribe to a rather different view. Not only should we take guidance from those who have managed to coin it in over the years, but that we too should give the taxman an annual ‘up yours’.

Whenever you hear the phrase “government money”, substitute ‘government’ with ‘your’. Since that’s what it is. The government has no money of its own. Everything a country does is bankrolled by its people.

I’m sure most would agree it is far easier to spend money that isn’t yours. As a kid, money seemingly does grow on trees – it was so much easier then, wasn’t it? The government, however, resembles Peter Pan living in an orchard. Long in to adulthood, they are still merrily frittering away money in child-like fashion, without consideration for those who have worked tooth and nail to fund their obscene spending habits. The previous Labour government’s hapless computerisation plan for the NHS was scrapped in 2011, after it became clear the £11bn project was doomed to failure. Who picked up the tab? Not them.

Perhaps it would be slightly more stomachable if politicians actually represented our interests and spent the money accordingly – but they don’t. Take foreign aid. Research from the Institution of Development Studies in 2010 indicated 63 per cent of people supported a reduction in Britain’s foreign aid budget in an attempt to reduce the deficit. Moreover, much of Britain’s foreign aid is unaudited – we might as well cut out the middleman and give it directly to the corrupt despot. However, despite the public making their stance clear,  in December 2014 MPs voted with a 141 majority to ring-fence foreign aid at 0.7% of GDP –  a policy that has seen the country’s aid budget actually increase.

The Iraq war of 2003 is another poignant example. The final poll before Britain’s invasion in March of that year suggested only 26 per cent backed the government’s decision, one that resulted in an eventual financial cost of £8.4bn according to the Ministry of Defence – perhaps that could have paid for some nurses?

The more the state “plans” the more difficult planning becomes for the individual. – Friedrich Hayek

We all have personal grudges as well – whether it be the National Health Service, our European Union membership, or maybe a loathing of those drunk on their own benefits. It boils down to personal freedom. Why should people be forced to pay for something they don’t want? As the Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek so succinctly put it: “The more the state “plans” the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan’s article for CapX eloquently explained how the current system lends itself to tax avoidance. Indeed, it seems once again a case of mistaking the symptom for the ailment. Avoidance is the inevitable outcome if you attempt to punish someone for their prosperity. The only long-term solution is lower and flatter taxes.

wallet

Election soundbites more often than not involve unrealistic financial pledges which the public are expected to lap up. There will be plenty of them in the coming months. Just remember, you’ll be the one paying for them.

So whether it’s storing money on some palm-tree infested island thousands of miles away, or merely plonking it in an ISA in a bank down the High Street, no one is powerless to take one look at government spending and say “not in my name”.

Tax avoiders are just independent individuals or companies keen to protect themselves from politicians whose actions make taxation look more like thievery. Tax avoiders aren’t selfish, they just want to keep what is theirs. Is there anything wrong with that? You can do it too. In fact, we all should.

So, how about that pint?

Will the Farage barrage continue in 2015?

You either love him or hate him. I happen to love him, if you hadn’t already guessed. Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party offer the vision of a Britain outside of the European Union that doesn’t involve economic protectionism – unlike many of his anti-EU comrades on the continent.

UKIP’s rise in 2014 has been meteoric. It started with victory in May’s European elections, and culminated with two triumphant by-elections in Clacton and Rochester and Strood, as Conservative defectors Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless became the party’s first elected MPs in the House of Commons. They now regularly reach scores of 15% or higher in national opinion polls, and with a general election approaching, UKIP has the potential to secure a significant breakthrough. But will they?

The consensus of the Westminster politicos throughout the year was that the UKIP bubble would burst. Unfortunately for them, it hasn’t. The torrent of abuse that began when the prospect of victory in the European elections first became realistic, has continued without relent, yet it has had no effect. The swathes of purple voters across the land care not what Farage thinks about breastfeeding, nor whether some archived footage shows him wavering on his commitment to the National Health Service. They also see right through the efforts to twist his comments – the contortion of his remarks over female wages in the city springs to mind. From the strengthening poll numbers and the regular failure of media ambushes, we can conclude the now entrenched base of UKIP voters are extremely unlikely to switch their ballot allegiance in May. In fact, an increase in support seems far more likely than a collapse.

UKIP’s biggest barrier to making a major breakthrough in 2015 could be the electoral system. Despite recent success under the first-past-the-post format, the nuances of it don’t lend themselves to an insurgent party. Their support is thickening, but it is spread pretty evenly across the country – except in London, where they perform poorly. UKIP have not created their own heartlands yet. Therefore, they may achieve an array of strong seconds, but returning more than a handful of MPs to the green benches will be much tougher. Farage has already stated that their strategy – much like the Liberal Democrats in the past – will be to select seats they believe they can win, and bombard them with campaigning. A strong day and who knows? Possibly 20 seats and wielding the balance of power? It may seem unlikely now, but did you envisage UKIP winning a national election, and picking up two by-election scalps 12 months ago? Perhaps the first, but I most certainly did not foresee the second. However, a poor day – say anything fewer than five or 10 seats – and their Westminster position will remain one of irrelevance rather than influence.

“If we fail, then the party will pick someone better than me, but we won’t.” – Nigel Farage

Much will of course depend on the result in Thanet South – the Kent constituency where Farage is standing. A Lord Ashcroft poll in July gave him a slight advantage but another in November had him lagging 5% behind Conservative candidate – and former UKIP deputy leader – Craig Mackinlay. For all of the party’s progress, Farage is the undeniable lynch pin of their success. His resignation would seem certain if he doesn’t become an MP – in August he said: “If we fail, then the party will pick someone better than me, but we won’t.” His confidence in that quote undoubtedly stemmed from his knowledge of Carswell’s imminent defection, which came the very next day.

I am expecting a close battle in Thanet, but one which Farage will ultimately win. He has four months to get it right, and now the by-elections are out of the way, UKIP can put all hands on deck there in a way the other parties cannot – Labour and the Conservatives have bigger priorities than trying to prevent Farage’s election, as much as they might like to.

A strong manifesto is also essential. Misconceptions and a lack of clarity on policy have been major issues this year, and the incident which saw Patrick O’Flynn’s proposed “luxury tax” scrapped within 48 hours of his conference speech was an embarrassment. The NHS will be a key battleground, fears the party plan to privatise the health service have been rife, despite them being consistently rubbished. To woo floating voters a manifesto of conviction is paramount. Anything less and the media will waste no time in looking to ridicule.

Abandoning some libertarian ideology, UKIP has searched to exploit the disaffected old Labour vote, where they have gained considerable ground, as October’s Heywood and Middleton by-election showed – UKIP candidate John Bickley came within 600 votes of taking the seat. Pleasing voters from across the political spectrum is fiendishly difficult. UKIP’s tactic to play politics as a battle between Westminster and the people, over the more traditional Left vs Right has proven profitable so far, expect them to ply similar tactics in the coming campaign.

The third party often gets squeezed in a general election as the Lib Dems found out in 2010. Nick Clegg shone in the television debates while David Cameron and Gordon Brown bickered, but his party ended up with less MPs than in 2005.

But UKIP’s threat is much different. Discontent amongst the electorate is far higher now than it has been in my lifetime and whatever you think of Farage and his party, they are offering a clear alternative to the status quo. Those keen on leaving the EU and controlling immigration are unlikely to be swayed by the promises of the mainstream parties they deem to have deceived them once too often. I feel inclined to point out that whilst the two issues are intertwined, immigration is not the sole reason UKIP wish to leave the EU, as the media generally fail to recognise. Mind, it’s hardly surprising organisations such as the BBC don’t recognise them considering the EU’s history of bankrolling them!

Not a clairvoyant, I can’t predict what will happen in May. But what I have seen from this year is the divide between politicians and the public grow even wider. As a result, UKIP have swelled and solidified instead of whimpering away. If Labour and the Conservatives malaise continues in 2015, more of the same could be in order.

First-past-the-post has always been UKIP’s main obstacle – nearly a million votes at the last general election translated into zero seats. The two by-election triumphs have allowed them to proclaim: “If you vote UKIP, you get UKIP.” How they project that message will be key to the level of success they can achieve.

This political year has belonged to Nigel Farage – as The Times confirmed by awarding him Briton of the Year this week. Succeeding again will be tougher but if 2014 has taught anything it is to underestimate UKIP at your peril, for they have thrived on it. Strap in folks, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Miliband could be in trouble in Doncaster North

UPDATE: A recent correction from Lord Ashcroft showed Labour’s share of the vote in Doncaster North was actually 54%.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how best the Conservatives could tackle the Labour threat in the north of England. Quite simply, they should stand aside.

The latest round of constituency polling from Lord Ashcroft today rather eloquently proved my point, that very method could hit Labour where its hurts most – in Ed Miliband’s Doncaster North seat.

The Labour leader has failed to connect with many typically Labour voters and nowhere is that more apparent than in his own constituency. Today’s polling revealed whilst Miliband is leading on 40%, the UK Independence Party and the Tories are not without range, reaching 28% and 23% respectively.

Let us hypothesise. Imagine the Tories decided not to field a candidate and urged all of their voters to back a UKIP candidate. The combined figure between the two parties today tallied at 51%, which would be more than enough to unseat Miliband.

Conservative voters in the North must surely realise that whilst their own party has become something of a toxic brand and is of little threat to the Labour-dominated heartlands, the purple and yellow brigade is. The Heywood and Middleton by-election in October saw UKIP get to within 600 votes of snatching the seat.

If the Conservatives are realistic and make the bold decision to lose a battle to win the war, they may just be able to wreck Labour and Miliband’s aim of reaching Number 10.

Miliband’s failure to connect with his own voters could have devastating consequences.

FARAGE STRUGGLING IN THANET SOUTH

It wasn’t all good news for UKIP today though with an Ashcroft poll in Thanet South revealing party leader Nigel Farage is lagging five points behind the Conservative candidate.

Polling after the European Elections had Farage holding a narrow lead, but a lack of appearances in the constituency over recent months could be swaying voters away from the charismatic leader.

In Farage’s defence, he is the leader of a party which in the past three months has seen two Conservative MPs defect, force by-elections and duly reclaim their seats in the House of Commons. It has been a busy period.

Statistics also noted that 49% of Farage’s support in the Kent seat comes from previously non-voters, who are notoriously harder to get to the ballot box on election day.

It’s still far from a lost cause though with the margin very narrow. The Conservatives lead on 34%, UKIP are second with 29%, whilst Labour are trailing in third on 26%. UKIP will of course be plowing copious resources into Thanet South in the run up to next May, with the seat being a must-win for the party. It will be one worth keeping a very close eye on over the next few months.

CLEGG ALSO IN TROUBLE

Not much is going right for Nick Clegg these days and the Liberal Democrat leader has found his lead slashed to a mere three points in Ashcroft’sSheffield Hallam poll.

Clegg is narrowly ahead on 31% with Labour second on 28%. The Tories come next gathering 19% while UKIP and the Greens picked up 11% and 10% respectively.

If the Lib Dems are to bow out next May, their leader could well be going with them.