The Thick of It


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three Tory graphs

After yesterday's disappointing growth figures that showed the economy hasn't grown at all in the last six months, opinion polls continue to show Labour in the lead and strong disapproval for the government's work.

Osborne Effect
Courtesy of Mark Ferguson at Labour List

Government Approval

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AV rows rumble on and I swing

Differences of opinion between the Tories and Lib Dems about AV continue to attract press attention. What was meant to be an apolitical issue has been fashioned into a party political affair. Peter Mandelson has suggested that Labour supporters should vote yes to hinder the Tories' potential electoral dominance. The no campaign have used Nick Clegg's unpopularity to encourage Labour supporters to vote no.

The recent sniping between the Lib Dems and Tories, plus interventions from Labour's heavyweights has added a little oomph to a rather dull and dry referendum campaign that will have passed most voters by.

The "row" has been the story rather than AV. That is much easier to report and shows a media appetite for tittle tattle over trying to educate the readership. There has been a great deal of nonsense thrown about by both sides. The no campaign have dubbed AV confusing, unfair and expensive. The yes campaign have dismissed the no campaign as the Tory old guard hanging onto the levers of power.

Both sides have tried to score party political points on the other. The no campaign calling on voters to deal a blow to Clegg, the yes campaign to David Cameron. If I'm going to be party political about the AV referendum, I'd like to deal a blow to both but voting for short term gain isn't necessarily going to deliver the best political outcome in the long term.

As usual Channel 4's Fact Check comes to the rescue bringing together the claims and demystifying the myths. AV won't be expensive and will ensure all MPs will be elected on some type of 50%+ support. AV wouldn't have altered many recent UK elections and would have exaggerated many recent results, like 1997.

I feel myself becoming a swing voter for the first time in my life. I've never approached an election and not been totally sure of how I would vote, but I am about AV. I want a fair system, a simple one and any change must be fair to all parties. Will AV be that change? I'm not convinced but it might be.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A coalition of convenience

The increasing tensions between the Tories and their coalition lap-dogs the Lib Dems over AV shows all is not as rosy as Dave and Nick like to make out.

'Leading' Lib Dems Chris Huhne and Vince Cable have both been playing to their gallery of party members and upset former voters by breaking ranks and criticising their big daddy. Under normal circumstances such behaviour would be met with a fell swoop of cabinet reshuffle. That isn't possible because the party has been guaranteed a certain number of cabinet posts. When there are only 57 MPs to choose from there isn't much choice. That Clegg himself is getting in on the act means cracks in the coalition will remain.

I still expect the coalition to last because both parties have a vested interest in making it. The Tories want to get their cuts programme through and the Lib Dems are desperate to cling on to whatever power they can. For Clegg needs to wait as long as possible in the hope that his party's plummeting poll ratings eventually reverse. I'm not site try will. They badly need AV to go through to show even a slight glimpse that the future might be even the slightest bit yellow.
Lib Dems won't be winning here for a while but that doesn't really matter as long as they continue to prop up the Tories.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vince Cable on the slide

Vince Cable is doing his best to get himself sacked from the cabinet. After calling David Cameron's immigration speech "unwise" today he added another feather to his Lib Dem Tory hating cap. The only problem is that he signed up to this in the first place. It is also a problem that the Lib Dems are guaranteed a specific number of cabinet posts and if old Vince is kicked out, who replaces him?

I agree with Vince. Capping immigration could be damaging for business, which needs to recruit the best people to get our economy going again. Setting an arbitrary cap means this might not happen.

His antics remind me of a Channel 4 comedy programme from a few years ago where two contestants, each starting a new job, had to get themselves sacked. The winner got a week's dole money. The only catch was that they were not allowed to do anything obvious, like swear, use violence, steal or not turn up. They had to be creative and provoke their boss to getting rid of them. The winner got sacked from his job in an expensive clothes shop after dressing up in fancy dress and juggling the shoes.

Vince is juggling with his career, I'm not sure he cares. Vince is looking good for his £67.50.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lib Dems: the indefensible

Poor Warren Bradley has been here before. His outburst at Nick Clegg suggests a man clearly worried about his own future. He is apparently sick of "defending the indefensible" with the latter being the Lib Dem coalition with the Tories.

Is it the VAT rise his party campaigned against? Is it the rise in tuition fees his party campaigned against? Is it the public sector cuts his party campaigned against?

For some time the Tories have had no presence in the north of England, which his Lib Dems profited from. People won't vote Tory there but when Labour has deserved a bloody nose the nice little yellow party has been there to step in. Bradley ended up as leader of Liverpool council, while the party was also victorious in other traditionally Labour strongholds such as Sheffield and Leeds. Now that many voters see the Lib Dems and Tories as a single entity it is highly probable that the pockets of northern support for the Lib Dems will go the same way as that for the Tories.

At least Bradley has been consistent. He might care about his party or he might only care about his own future. Which doesn't really matter at this time. He was one of the first and more high profile members of his party to warn about the effect doing a deal with the Tories nationally might have on the party's future. Speaking in July, just after the coalition was formed he said "we’re in a weak coalition, that will deliver nothing to the Lib-Dems except total electoral decimation. I give you that absolute guarantee, we will be wiped out by Labour in the North and the Tories in the South." In three weeks we'll find out.

Bradleys's current analysis may be robust but he misses a key point that many voters who were fooled into thinking Bradley's Lib Dems were a left wing party. Across England they have repeatedly gone into coalition with the Tories whenever it has suited their ends, as Bradley's email to Clegg points out, to get power

Highlights of Tory-Lib Dem coalition include:

Bradley needs to look back a bit further into his party's recent history. Perhaps then he'd realise that the "indefensible" has been party policy for some time. Time for a new job Bradley?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Londoners suffer the most from the Tories cuts

As we head into an avoidable cost of living crisis caused by the Tories' tax rises and cuts, evidence shows that Londoners will lose badly. The poorest will be worse off than the wealthy. Yet more evidence that we're not "all in this together" after all, but its much more a case of "I'm alright Jack" from George Osborne.

The cost of living is so much higher in London than elsewhere in the UK that any hits to living standards will be harshly felt. As the graphic shows, Londoners get a raw deal from the cuts. Couples with children will lose 8% of their income by 2014/15. The poorest Londoners will be 7% worse off, the wealthiest only 5%.

Ed Miliband's job is to make this clear, in simple language to ordinary people. The cuts are not fair or even. The Tories hit those who can afford it least in the pocket.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Is Vince Cable a joke?

I don't quite know how Vince Cable can live with himself. He has been absent from the news recently after a series of gaffes relating to News International's attempt to buy back a bigger share of Sky.

Low paid workers are facing a two-pronged hit to their living standards after Cable announced that the minimum wage is increasing by a below inflation 15 pence an hour. Couple this with a 2.5% increase in VAT and the rise in personal income tax allowances will be completely wiped out. Even though food isn't included in VAT, the cost of fuel is meaning the cost of food and essential items increase anyway. 

Recently Cable was responsible for the trebling of tuition fees. He then has the cheek to suggest he will cut teaching grants to universities for poor performing universities that charge the highest fees, ignoring that he has cut the teaching grants meaning fees have to fill the gap. Universities have no choice but to levy maximum fees. They don't get any extra money for this, it just replaces lost central government funding. There are arguments on both sides about the demerits of the new student funding system that are best argued in a dedicated post.

His red tape challenge reminds me of John Major's cones hotline. Surely Cable can use his own scissors to cut business red tape? This is little more than a gimmick.

Cable was once the darling of the Lib Dems for his foresight in predicting the global financial crisis. He was all over their election leaflets as he was seen as more marketable than the then very popular Nick Clegg. How times change. He was given a deliberately difficult ministerial post by the Tories who clearly saw him as a threat. He is still the most likely Lib Dem to resign from the coalition.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Labour by default

Labour's lead in opinion polls remains consistently at a minimum of five points over the Tories with the Lib Dems around or below 10%.

Latest Voting Intention

Looking back over the polls between Labour's disastrous 1983 election and resounding defeat in 1987 shows a similar pattern. A year after the election Labour were consistently ahead of the Tories but the failure of the party to earn the trust of voters saw this gradually eroded by the 1987 election day. The same thing happened again between 1987 and 1992. Until Ed Miliband starts to get a strong and positive recognition from voters I fear that 2015 may lead to a similar result as 1987 or 1992.

It feels a bit like the 1980s at the moment. An unpopular Tory government, cuts, protests and a dodgy economy. Miliband's job is easier than Kinnock's though as there is no major internal party strife to deal with. It is an opportunity and a crucial one for the country at a time when the Tories are getting cockier by the day with Climate Change minster Greg Barker saying the current government's cuts are what "Thatcher could only have dreamed of." That's very different to the official line and faux sombre faces of George Osborne and Danny Alexander every time they announce more cuts - this is sad and bad but necessary. Miliband needs to make people realise his feelings are real.

Monday, April 04, 2011

London's never had it so good

According to Mayor Boris Johnson London's never had it so good. The sun shines and everything is fine. He might think it is but I don't share his optimism. He belittled Ed Miliband's chief spin doctor Tom Baldwain for having to paint the world around him as in a "complete mess" whatever the circumstances.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Living costs are going up
  • Tax is going up
  • Vital government services are being cut
  • London tube and bus fares are going up
  • Thousands of jobs are going to be lost, hurting families and the economy

Perhaps Boris would like to do the honourable thing and add himself to the rising toll of jobless next year? After all, his pal George Osborne did say, "we're all in this together."