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Sir Anthony Bamford, the missing peer [May. 28th, 2010|07:00 pm]
Today in Politics

So there are lots of interesting names among the 56 new peers created today, such as Prezza, Helen Newlove and Sir Ian Blair. The names also include two major donors to the Conservative Party. But one notable name is missing. It seems, for one reason or another, Sir Anthony Bamford, another major Tory donor, has not made the cut – despite being nominated by David Cameron. Earlier reports suggested he was nailed on to get the gig.

Bamford, boss of JCB, has given the Tories the best part of £1m. The party confirmed he was nominated for a working peerage. So why did he not appear on the list? All peerages have to be approved by the House of Lords Appointments Committee – as Lord Ashcroft found, they can be tricky when they want to be.

So what happened? Maybe No.10 has decided to stagger the announcement of Tory donors who end up in the Lords. Sure we’ll find out in time…

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Labour’s leadership contest: the beginning or the end? [May. 17th, 2010|06:55 pm]
Today in Politics

David Miliband launched his leadership bid today, triggering a serious bout of Déjà vu. Having just read his speech from this morning again, one seemingly innocuous line sticks out. He told supporters:


“This leadership election is the beginning, not the end.”


Well, is it? The sentence assumes there will be an early leadership election, perhaps in July. That would certainly help him, as the frontrunner. Less time for one of his rivals to make a David Cameron-style speech that wins the day at the eleventh hour.


But would that be best for the party? Frankly, many members and activists are asking, what’s the rush? Nothing happens in August anyway, so why not have a debate over the summer and decide the leadership at the next conference at the end of September? In other words, they would be more impressed if DMil opens his 2010 conference speech by saying:


“This leadership election is the end, not the beginning.”

Miliband Major also promised to put an end to off the record briefings and negative campaigning during the contest. Good luck with that, a noble sentiment. But is it a strategic error?


The likes of Alastair Campbell aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, a point proved in spectacular fashion by Sky’s Adam Boulton recently. But whatever one's opinion of his skill set, Labour’s election campaign did seem to sharpen up when he took control, along with that other maestro, Peter Mandelson. Perhaps his more mischievous supporters should urge DMil to sign ‘em up…

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A new voting phenomenon – the “Lib Dem reverse ferret” [May. 7th, 2010|11:59 am]
Today in Politics

A few people saying this morning that this was a dream result for the Lib Dems, with a hung parliament giving them leverage for electoral reform. I don’t buy it. After the highs of the campaign, losing seats will be a devastating blow to the leadership. It was unthinkable, even on the even of the election. What Clegg and his team wanted was a sign that they had won support from the country in their own right.

Significantly, the reason no one saw it coming was last night produced a new electoral phenomenon – the “Lib Dem reverse ferret”. Even the very last opinion poll dramatically overestimated the Lib Dem share of the vote. The Ipsos Mori poll for the Standard put them on 27 per cent, which would have seen them gain seats.

Back in the days of Thatcher, pollsters grew used to the tendency of some voters not to admit they were voting Tory, meaning Thatcher’s vote was underestimated. This time round, some voters seem to have wanted to claim they were going to vote Lib Dem, but when it came to the crunch, they didn’t. They wanted the euphoria of taking part in Cleggmania, but abandoned him at the eleventh hour.

There will be an inquest – and Lib Dems will now think more than ever before that they will be permanently stumped unless the voting system is changed.
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Cameron's election problem - he's as popular as Kinnock [May. 3rd, 2010|03:41 pm]
Today in Politics

As we approach the big day, some Labour big guns have changed course slightly. Led by Alastair Campbell, who spearheaded the approach in the spin room after the third leader’s debate, they have stopped pumping up Brown and have switched to pointing out how Cameron has seemingly failed to hold on to a huge poll lead. I’ve just got back from a Labour press conference during which Lord Mandelson has done the same. With everything in his favour, they say Cameron hasn’t managed to seal the deal with voters.


The problem for the Cam camp is that when you look back at recent elections, there’s something in it. A poll of polls out today puts the Tories on 35 per cent. To put that in context, it’s the same share of the vote that Neil Kinnock, with the full force of the right-wing press against him, secured in 1992. And it also calls into question the great Cameroon age of reforming the Tories. His 35 per cent is only a slight improvement on Michael Howard’s 33.2 per cent tally.


And is he really heralding in a new age for the Tories? Tony Blair increased Labour’s vote share to 44.3 per cent in 1997, up more than nine points on Kinnock’s effort. Cameron’s leadership thus far his pushed up the share of the vote by around two points since Michael Howard.


“Cameron as popular as Kinnock” isn’t a slogan Labour, and particularly Mr Campbell, could deploy. But perhaps the Lib Dems could.

With Cam doing only a bit better than Michael Howard, the question is, Is he thinking what we're thinking? That is, he should be doing much better...


Here are the figures. I have used the ones compiled for Great Britain by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, at Plymouth University:



Tory 42.8%

Labour 35.2%



Tory 31.5%

Labour 44.3%


Tory 32.7%

Labour 42%


Tory 33.2%

Labour 36.1%

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Here’s why bigotgate could have an effect on polling day [Apr. 29th, 2010|05:30 pm]
Today in Politics

It was a head in hands moment to end them all – slagging off voters, especially your own, is never recommended election banter. But now the debate has turned to whether or not it will matter, or whether it will simply confirm people’s prejudices. Here’s why I think it could make a difference on polling day.

Gillian Duffy is in an important bracket of the population when it comes to elections – she has been in work (for the council), but on a low wage. She is one of 14m people in the group (in working households with total household income of up to £27,000), which have in the past voted for Thatcher and then Blair. Crucially, they are much more likely to vote than those out of work on a low income or benefits.

Fascinating polling for the Resolution Foundation, a thinktank, which has broken down the voting intentions according to people’s income, has thrown up some interesting results.

Before the debates, Labour and Brown were fighting back among low earners like Gillian. They wanted change and Cameron was in the lead, but the comeback was certainly on. Once the debates began, many voters fled to the Lib Dems, backing Clegg as their change candidate. Cameron lost votes. Brown’s recovery came to an end.

The group were extremely volatile – have a look how much their voting intentions changed. Was there a chance, before bigotgate, that Brown could have won them back over the last week? Maybe not in huge numbers, but the level of volatility meant people hadn’t made up their minds. Surely now, after offending one of the 14m, they’ll not take another look at GB.

Low earner polling:

February 2010: 38 Tories, 26 Labour, 20 Lib Dems, 16 Other (Populus)

Early March: 40 Tories, 37 Labour, 12 Lib Dems, 11 Other (Polulus)

Late March: 34 Tories, 29 Labour, 22 Lib Dems, 15 Other (Ipsos MORI)

April: 27 Tories, 27 Labour, 38 Lib Dems, 9 Other (Ipsos MORI)
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Fergie attacks Tory toffs [Apr. 28th, 2010|12:07 pm]
Today in Politics
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Sir Alex Ferguson has entered the election debate--for the Reds, of course. In a two-page interview in the Daily Mirror, the Man United manager tells us it is "squeaky bum time" for David Cameron, who clearly thought it was "all over" only to find that it was not.
His comments came in an "exclusive interview"  with Alastair Campbell, the paper's former political editor who is advising on Labour's election campaign.  I doubt the interview was very hard to get. I once travelled to London with Campbell after interviewing Tony Blair in his  Sedgefield constituency and his spin doctor was on the phone to his pal Fergie several times during our train journey.
Today Fergie says that using Cameron's privileged background is "fair game", asking: "How can it be class war to say the guy went to Eton, or that he was part of some dreadful right-wing social club at Oxford?  Where you come from does matter you know. His policies are all about helping is own sort."
Labour will welcome Fergie's intervention,  although it will not be taking his advice on strategy. One Labour official tells me: "He told us we should just say the Tories are all toffs."
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It was Clegg who won it [Apr. 23rd, 2010|11:38 am]
Today in Politics
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You pays your money and takes your choice in today's newspapers about who won the leaders' second television debate. "Cameron fights back,"  says the Daily Telegraph. "The Cam Back Kid," says The Sun. "Cameron wins with passion," claims the Daily Express. "Cameron nicks it," says The Times. All Tory-leaning, of course. The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror counters: "One foot in the Dave,"  while The Guardian opts for "Clegg weathers the storm." 
To be fair, some of the headlines were based on the papers' own opinion polls. Given that David Cameron and Gordon Brown directed so much of their fire at  Nick Clegg last night -- in sharp contrast to the first debate -- I think Cleggy did incredibly well.  He couldn't  possibly repeat his barnstorming performance of last week  without the novelty factor.  The attacks on him by Cam and Brown were a testament to his success.  The two other leaders did better last night than last week.  But Clegg did indeed weather the storm.
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Clegg's moment [Apr. 16th, 2010|09:20 am]
Today in Politics
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I'm not surprise that Nick Clegg came out on top in the first televised debate between the three main party leaders. I have always rated Clegg and have had a few texts from friends who were sceptical about him saying: "You were right."  Which shows how biased the political system -- and the media-- is against the Liberal Democrats.
Perhaps no more? The TV debates have  certainly changed the terms of trade. A dream set of newspaper headlines today for the LibDems. But they will be followed by more scrutiny and certainly more attacks by the Tories, who will be most threatened (for now)  if the third party's yellow bird takes off. Labour won't lose too much sleep about Clegg's triumph.  Privately it wants the LibDems to do well in the South west  and South to limit the number of Tory MPs.
The Tories will be slightly disappointed but I'm sure Cameron will bounce back in the remaining two debates.  Labour won't be too Browned off and will feel it could have been worse. Pro-Tory newspapers were itching to see Brown bomb and he didn't. The LibDems shouldn't get too carried away.  Clegg won't. After all, the debates are a game of three halves.
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Labour manifesto launch: Second time lucky in the Second City? [Apr. 12th, 2010|01:01 pm]
Today in Politics
Labour must have thought twice about launching its election manifesto in a Birmingham hospital.
Eight years ago Tony Blair headed for the Second City to unveil the party’s policy platform, only to see the event wrecked immediately afterwards when he went on to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Edgbaston. As he arrived he was harangued by Sharron Storer about the conditions endured by her partner, a cancer patient. Inevitably those pictures trumped images of Mr Blair touring the wards.
But it was back today to the rebuilt Queen Elizabeth for the Labour high command. And this time the tactic appeared to have worked, reinforcing the party’s message that Labour has invested in public services (and suggesting that the Tories would cut them).
It was a clever move by the party which has struggled so far to prevent the Conservatives setting the early election agenda.
The Tories suggested that Labour had breached civil service advice that election meetings should not be held on NHS premises. Labour had thought of that: the building is formally still in the hands of the developer and yet to be handed over to NHS control.
As for a second Sharron Storer? You can be sure that ordinary members of the public were kept well away from the event.
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Who could replace Grayling as future Home Secretary? [Apr. 12th, 2010|12:32 pm]
Today in Politics

Poor old Chris Grayling is having a bit of a tough time at the moment following his comments on gay rights. Since then, the man who had built a reputation as a Tory attack dog has been muzzled and locked in a kennel somewhere in CCHQ. Even some on the right have noted his absence and called on the party to back him or sack him.

He won’t go during an election campaign. But it’s looking unlikely that the shadow Home Secretary will take over the department should Cameron form the next Government. There is one problem – who could take over what is a notoriously difficult department to run? Not easy, and bears out Labour's point about the depth of Cameron's team. 

Here are some thoughts.

1. Nick Herbert. Rated by the party. A Cameron-friendly choice, and as a gay MP in a civil partnership, it would help repair the damage of Mr Grayling’s comments. But it is a big step up.

2. Jeremy Hunt. Has grown into the role covering the culture, media and sport brief. Has also performed well on TV during the campaign. But again, it is a massive promotion.

3. Ken Clarke. A big beast, but can the man who’s seen it and done it really be bothered to run an accident-prone department? He doesn’t need the headache.

4. David Davis. He gave some odd answers when asked about this yesterday, suggesting he would come back if asked. But not sure the Cameron leadership would want this free spirit back after giving up the job to hold his bizarre by-election.

5. Wild card: Nick Clegg. In a hung parliament, the man who used to cover the home affairs brief could be offered the tricky job to appease the Lib Dems. A long shot, but you never know…
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