Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Not my words - the words of Cllr Richard Kemp, Leader of the LibDems in the LGA when describing Cable's policy of forcing £100k Chief Execs and the like to reapply for their jobs and accept pay cuts. He also says this idea is "probably illegal" too. At last; somebody willing to take on some of the loonier ideas coming out of the new serious LibDems.
Cable got the headlines, but clearly Kemp got the headache.
Monday, September 29, 2008
In 2007 Osborne and Cameron were desperate to avoid an election which, subsequently, even Cameron admits the Tories may well have lost. He needed to be bold, eye catching and - above all - economically innovative. The inheritance tax did it for Osborne and made his reputation both within the party and amongst the public.
This year is different; the economic situation has changed. This year I feel he was measured and mature in his speech. He spoke extremely well and managed to clearly set out the national Tory view on the current situation (because, believe me, that needed doing). His stark message to bankers and his fierce attacks on Brown showed that the Tories can have a coherent line on this and he will have broken the Labour lie about the laissez-faire attitude of the opposition.
And for the bold there was the council tax announcement. It will chime with all voters and most people now strongly believe tax freezes can be achieved through cuts in government waste. The Osborne plan rewards councils who are willing to cut their own cloth and councils who fail to achieve this will be punished at the ballot box. Although the delivery wasn't as knock-about as last year, I believe when the dust settles the new Tory focus on waste will be as effective as that on inheritance tax.
So, two years and two very different jobs. Both of which Osborne has nailed. Cameron also faces a different task this year - rather than his passionate walk-a-bout speech I am expecting something more focused, sober and premier-in-waiting from him.
Osborne did it, now the party awaits Cameron.
Firstly a note to BBC Parliament: please cut out the delays between the speeches, principally because I cannot stand the upbeat pop music. It must be bad to suffer it in the Conference Hall but us TV viewers must be able to avoid it. However from what I hear Birmingham has been an excellent conference venue and both the exhibition and the fringe have been very exciting indeed.
Spot the difference between previous years - no "big beasts" hanging around ready to criticise. The party is very united and determined to show that we are a real alternative to Labour. We've been showing our priorities and putting some meat on the policy bones - more on those later.
A word about presentation. The conference set is excellent - much more exciting and fresher than either Labour's very traditional set and the rather dour and boring LibDem effort. The video presentations have been well produced and a lot of thought has gone into them. The decision to shift some debates to match the current problems was the right one. However if I make one small critique it would be this: I am disappointed that we haven't seen many chances for the members and activists to get involved. I am, however, quite impressed with the calibre of the PPCs that have spoken - clearly those of us who will be in the next Tory intake will be amongst good company.
A great start to the conference; very professional and a great window through which to see the next Conservative government.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
UPDATE: Just a thought, I wonder if Clegg will choose this moment to have a wider re-shuffle and to bring back those who quit over the Lisbon fiasco?
Kelly was apparently outed by a leak from No.10 to the BBC. If I were Brown, I'd be looking to my own personal staff to see who is plotting. But she could have deferred making a statement. She hijacked the news agenda, just hours after Brown had made a reasonable speech and did so to move the story straight back to splits.
Kelly, who represents the marginal seat of Bolton West, has been quite out of step with government for some time. This may be to do with religion - who knows, except her - but she is quite well known for straying from the Brown leadership.
When you add all these things together, you cannot help but conclude that this is a woman who knew what she was doing. Brown's back on the rocks. I hope he enjoyed his few hours of political safety.
And good job too. De-selection would let Clarke get away with it - local people should have the last say on his political future. He ought to be accountable for the mess he and his government has got this country into. I want Clarke to stay - and lose - here in Norwich South and feel what people have to say about crime and the economy.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
First of all weas the big surprise of the Sarah Brown introduction, which very much bought to mind the Michelle Obama set piece. She looked very confident and spoke well. However I cannot help but wonder what the press would have said if Samantha Cameron had done the same thing - is this only brave and bold because Brown is in such trouble? She's PR savvy, that's for sure, and so savvy she hasn't be criticised for being savvy!
Then there was the "novice" line; was I really the only one who thought he was referring to David Miliband rather than David Cameron (or maybe both) when it was first said.
I thought that the PM was clearer in his attacks on David Cameron but I still don't think they will stick. All the class-and-nonsense stuff is pretty weak and the blaming of the world's problems on the Tories just looks pathetic. Even Blears admits they should stop listing achievements (it only works if people recongise them as achievements) and stop attacking the last Tory government. Brown should listen to her.
But overall this was a decent speech - not dramatic and I didn't pick up a big theme. But it wasn't badly delivered and Brown cheered up his troops - for now. I still don't get what this Labour government is "for" - why are they still in office, what left have they got to do? What is their purpose, other than to govern (badly) for governing sake.
This is a stop-gap speech - a plaster over the wound of Labour's divisions.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
The reason that this poll is more accurate is the wording of the question – instead of asking for their party of choice, this poll asked people to think about the constituency of Norwich South and the candidates standing here and which of them the elector would vote for. It gave the result as a Conservative win.
The report says: “Our poll suggests that the LibDems have failed to position themselves as the challengers to Labour in these seats and the drop in Labour support is instead going to the Conservative Party, in some cases [ including Norwich South ] allowing them to win from third place.”
We are running a strong campaign here in Norwich South and we are taking nothing for granted. We have made gains on the local council and people see us as the main challengers to Labour. Only David Cameron’s Conservatives can remove Brown from power – a vote for any other party is a waste. People are very keen to support our new ideas and fresh thinking in education, the environment and the cost of living.
There is still a lot of work to do as the next election could be up to 2 years away but here in Norwich South there is a real opportunity for change. The Liberal Democrats have no chance of forming the next government and have been almost wiped out at City Hall.
Under this Labour government, taxes have gone through the roof, the cost of buying food and filling up your car has rocketed and they have abolished the 10p tax rate hitting many hard working families here in Norwich.
In contrast, I believe in lower taxation, help for people to get into work, a stronger NHS, more police on the streets and better schools.
I will be working hard over the coming weeks, months and years to meet as many local people as I can; listening to your issues and addressing your concerns. I am in politics to make life better for local people.
This poll blows the claims of the Greens and the LibDems apart.
This poll will give our campaign great heart and encourage us to knock on more doors every week until the next election.
As far as I can see, in this media driven interactive 24-7 world, people want their politics at a time that they wish and through a method that they wish. Which is why email, webcasting and websites will become the mode of choice for the next few elections. You can get your politics at three in the morning if you wish but it isn't thrusted down your throat. So what does that mean for leaflets, canvassing and telemarketing?
Canvassing will, I believe, survive this new world of political campaigning. As I have blogged before, canvassing is becoming more and more difficult and sometimes less and less accurate. Even if the canvassers interupts your dinner, or changing the baby, or Eastenders, then most people still appreciate the time and effort of the canvasser.
Leaflets are expensive, time consuming and often not read. But they are pretty non-abtrusive and can be left to be read later (if not recycled by another member of your family in the meantime). They are not targetted and no leaflet can carry a message to every one of the people that recieve them. Direct mail is better, but still not perfect. However its the best we have and, unlike the others, there are still plenty of people to do this for parties.
Telephone canvassing is, in my view, a useful tool if its raining or if you are doing a very rural ward. However personally I do not like it as it is impersonal and you are fighting with every other company doing it. TPS is taking over and people are very quick to put the phone down (you very rarely get the door-slamming equivalent).
But what of automated messaging? I think this is the one form that is universally hated and I'd love to see figures of how many people actually listen. And I object to being distrubed to answer the phone for an automated message and come away with a less positive impression of the company. I hated it when Michael Howard did a massive burst of this in 05 and I hope the party learnt from this. All the negative press aside, I cannot believe for a moment that this activity was worth it from the LibDems. The few people I know who got the call all said they slammed the phone down on hearing it was Nick Clegg.
So please, party bosses, when deciding whether to spend the money that we activists raise on these schemes, please ask if this is the method of communication people would actually choose. If you agree with me, that it is not, put the money into online campaigning, podcasts or absolutely anything else!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
On presentation, Mr Clegg clearly wants people to draw a Cameron parellel with his apparent noteless effort, wandering around the stage. I thought he sounded like a VIth Form debating student. It was then also revealed that Mr Clegg was reading from an enormous autocue being suspended at the back of the hall. Oh dear.
Now on the rhetoric. If I were Clegg, given his record in undermining Campbell and his party's history in dumping leaders, I wouldn't have bothered with the attack on Labour and their leadership problem. Ditto scrap the attempt to empathise with people who cannot afford heating - your idea of cutbacks is shopping at Sainsburys rather than Waitrose. Clegg also says he spoke to a pensioner recently; given the fact he doesn't know the rate of the state pension, why on earth didn't they cut this line? Schoolboy error there.
The attack on Conservative policies was also very very weak. On Newsnight the night before, Clegg said he wouldn't expand on policies for risk of Labour stealing their ideas (note to Clegg: not even they are that desperate). And yet what do you attack Cameron for? Yep, not expanding on policy ideas. For the Tories, Clegg says its all blue skies thinking. A bit like the £20bn LibDem cuts then? We're in favour of tax cuts, says Clegg, but not lowering the tax take. And people can have £20bn minus what we want to spend on services. This is absolute nonsense; a ridiculous policy position and next time a LibDem complains about people turning away from politics, remind them that this is why. Apparently the Tories are a "say everything, do nothing party". Pots. Kettle. Black. Ever read a FOCUS leaflet, Nick? He then blows his credibility apart with he claims the LibDems will be in government. Er, no, check the MORI poll.
Onto LibDem ideas, in which he first pledges to trust the instinct of the British people. Not on Lisbon, obviously. No, Sir-ee, that we should trust the government. On everything else you can trust the people. "Everyone we know from the last 50 years will change in the next 5." What?!?!
Nick's action plan:
1. Stop unjustified repossessions. Doesn't say how. Is he saying everything and doing nothing? Err ... Clegg clings to Cable's popularity instead.
2. Stop City bonuses. Apparently he wants to regulate the City more; are the LibDems saying we ought to regulate their paypackets too??? Isn't this the job of shareholders? Because if I owned shares in a company that did badly and still gave bonuses I'd go bananas.
3. Interest rates to take into account house prices. Haven't you just rewritten the whole government economic policy? Interest Rates are used usually to control inflation. What happens to inflation then? Or did you just not think this bit through?
4. Tax Cuts. Great, we can agree on something. Clegg does his usual line about Tory tax cuts for millionaires. I would benefit from the Tory plans on Inheritance Tax; does that make me a millionaire? Great! Clegg says all teachers should be millionaires. It is a silly claim and makes them look very stupid indeed.
All I can say is thank god I didn't get a call from Clegg tonight .... but even then, I notice they don't want to hear my views, it's an automated call and not a conversation with voters. Given their hypocrisy with complaining about other parties, I hope the OIC throw the book at them!
Overall, Clegg should be happy he got through without falling over or fluffing his lines. It wasn't a great speech and the phonecall debacle will take the shine off the speech. The LibDems still haven't sorted what their attack on the Tory Leader should be but he was more effective against Labour. His views on policy came across as waffly (odd, considering he attacked Cameron for being vague on policy) but he generalised section on liberalism was actually quite good. On tone, I think he tried to go angry but came across as wet. And for a party that is challenging Labour it is odd that the biggest claps came for his anti-Tory lines. He ought to take note.
So a mixed bag really, but for a major party leader at 12% in the polls he should have done better.
This is an absolutely amazing poll, in fact astounding.
I can't believe a quarter of people would still vote Labour, for a start.
The depth of the Tory support is now clearly evident. But Cameron won't celebrate - the deals not done until the votes are in.
But tonight the man who should be worried is Nick Clegg - he's taken them back down to the depths of the Campbell leadership. Today Mr Clegg said he knew where the LibDems were heading - government. If this poll is anywhere near correct the only place he's heading is down.
I hav constantly said that politicans must stop saying that which everyone knows to be false, because it damages politics as a whole. Government ministers aren't wandering around saying the economy is fine, because we know it isn't. They say they "understand" and "appreciate" the tough market conditions. Clegg's boasts - like other boasts he makes - are totally unbelievable. This week he has shown himself to be in control of his docile party but totally out of touch with the British people (value of pension and his Sainsbury comments are classics). I suppose he jst ought to be happy with 12% of the vote.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Paxo asked, very reasonably, where the £20bn LibDem service cuts would come from. Poor Clegg floundered, err, um, yes, well and then failed to give any concrete answers; so why, carried on Paxo, have you chosen this figure given its not based on anything more than back of the envelope stuff? Clegg looked as if he wanted the ground to swallow him up. The whole interview was about this one issue and Clegg looked battered by the end. On a side issue, I'd actually blame Vince Cable for Clegg being so unprepared. If this was a Tory plan it would have torn to shreds in the same way, but Cable must have this worked out - doesn't he? So all day today the media have taken this to task. But there is something more important to remember.
LibDems cut spending by £20bn (they can't win from the start - because this is either a drop in the ocean or masisve spending cuts, depending on who you believe) and use some of the money to support their political priorities. The rest goes on tax cuts. Hence given their previous spending committments, the tax cuts are left looking very very small indeed. And still Clegg avoids another key question: does he support a reduced state and an overall smaller tax burden or not?
And then came today, Clegg tripped up by a regional media who asked him to give the cost of the basic state pension. As local councillors we would all be expected to know this - but Clegg gives the answer "£30". So Nick Clegg, the man who believes cost cutting in the credit crunch means shopping at Sainsburys rather than Waitrose, thinks our elderly survive on the same amount as sixth formers do on the EMA. Why on earth isn't he totally prepared for these kind of questions - pint of milk, interest rates, gallon of petrol and a pint of beer - they always come up. Nick Clegg shows just how out of step he is with Britain and out of touch with the people of our country.
Nick Clegg is, in my opinion, rather lucky that the government's woes are overshadowing his conference or people may just catch on to what a pisspoor leader he has turned out to be. But worst of all is this: all of these errors were self-inflicted and could have been avoided. Oh, how they must be desperate for Huhne.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I have read the rather limited detail coming our way and the figures do seem to stack up, assuming all savings are passed onto the tax payers (not a bad assuption to make I suppose). Then the Labour rebuttle came that left me equally confused.
Labour's Executive Member for Unitary, Cllr Alan Waters, says that:
A single county unitary would deliver a reduction in council tax – but it would have to make £5 million worth of cuts in services to achieve that. Under the ‘doughnut’ option, council tax would also be reduced but the new councils would still offer service improvements
Nice and simple - so instead of passing on all the savings, a new doughtnut council would hand some back in tax cuts and invest the rest. OK, still with you. Then Cllr Waters says:
The difference in the net savings which would be produced by the two options is marginal, with the single county unitary producing an estimated £24.6 million, compared to the £21.7 million delivered by the two-unitary solution
So the doughnut will produce fewer savings then? So County will have £2.9m more to play with (either as tax cuts or as service investment).
I know that both sides will cling to whatever boosts their case but this arguement is about the application of unitary. Whatever happens to the savings is a matter for the newly elected councils. Cllr Waters can't say, and neither can County, that investment would be made here or tax cut there - because the people who will make those decisions haven't been elected.
So after all this, where am I? Well, as far as I can see there is only one figure we can rely on - the total cost of providing the council; you save more under the County model than the Doughnut model (both sides admit this). So whatever happens to that money, County is cheaper. I suppose other people will have to decide if County Hall or City Hall have a better record in the delivery of services.
Funnily enough, Cllr Waters also argues that, "It is also important to remember the cheapest option is not always the best". I bet he wouldn't be saying that if the figures were reversed! Cost is just one aspect of this whole issue, of course, and it will be interesting to see how the democratic structures match up.
Friday, September 05, 2008
In fact, are the '03 candidates the most successful given the number of us that went on to win at some point in the future? I count - me, Janet Bearman, Adrian Holmes, Rupert Read, Bert Bremner, Bob Gledhill, Stephen Little, Julie Westmacott, John Wyatt, Keith Driver & Roy Blower.
And of the class of '03, only Alan Waters, Adrian Ramsay, Judith Lubbock and Joyce Divers remain in office today.
Another interesting little side story. Two candidate for North Norfolk at the next election both stood in the same ward - Labour's Phil Harris and Conservative Trevor Ivory. Although a LibDem won, Phil got the better of Trevor that time - I very much doubt he will next time!
Thursday, September 04, 2008
I think that with his position undermined; the economic rescue plan a flop and Norwich MP Charles Clarke like a bull in a china shop; Brown actually has very little choice.
The current worries surround his Miliband-Darling problem; actually I think he still has some wriggle room. Darling essentially has to go - a straight sacking if he won't take a shift to, say, Leader of the House. Miliband should then be offered the Treasury; and should be removed if he won't take it. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should be despatched to spend more time in her ultra-marginal constituency - but won't be. I'd do something very similar to McCain here - and appoint her as the new Deputy Prime Minister. Potentially Brown could lose all three of his most senior minister, but that would certainly stamp his authority on the government and send shock waves through the parliamentary Labour Party. So, who is going to step up to the plate?
Brown should accept that Balls isn't popular enough to take one of the top jobs but should earn the affections of the party in a tough portfolio - say, Work & Pensions. Heal the rifts of the party with other appointments; John Denham to the Home Office, Alan Johnson to the Foreign Office and John Hutton to the Treasury. That also has the bonus of tieing Hutton the the success of the government and also the Blairite rump to Brown. Plus you could offset this glut of middle aged men with a new female DPM and also another surprising female appointment...
Des Browne should be sacked outright - and replaced with a female Defence Secretary, my choice being Hazel Blears. It may even give her the gravitas she needs to move later on into a more senior government position.
Jack Straw should stay at Justice; he is becoming the rock of both Brown's government and the Labour Party. He should stick this government out from beginning to end. Give Hilary Benn a chance to show what he can do - either Health or Education would do, with the other job being given to James Purnell. Harriet Harman should be left in her non-jobs and kept away from doing the party harm. Andy Burnham could replace Hutton at Business with David Lammy replacing him at Culture. Having given ex-Tory Shaun Woodward the NI job, I think Brown will have to stand by him. Ed Miliband could take up where his brother left off at Environment.
That would be pretty radical; a female DPM and also a female Defence Secretary. New younger MPs put in charge of the big public sector departments. Blairite safe pairs of hands taking the top jobs. Miliband and Darling taken care of. And why won't Brown do any of this? He's too unsure of his own position and won't risk taking on his party. He doesn't seem to have the fight left in him.
A radical reshuffle followed by a well trailed set piece speech could yet save the Brown premiership. But don't bet on it.