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The widespread assumption that Dave won’t lead CON into the next election might be wrong

May 26th, 2015

How much should we attach to the famous Landale interview?

Whenever people discuss the next election they will invariably point out that the Tories will not, unlike 2010 and 2015, be led by David Cameron.

All this is based on the televised kitchen conversation that the PM had with the BBC’s James Landale in March a week or so before the official campaign began.

    My reading after watching the video again is that this was not a firm commitment to stand aside and that we cannot necessarily conclude that a new person will lead the Tories in 2020.

A key factor, of course, is that Cameron’s comments were made when virtually nobody, himself included I guess, thought a Tory majority was possible. Now that he has pulled that off he’s in a much stronger position within his party and the country. Cameron is now what he wasn’t in 2010 – an unequivocal winner.

Of course there is a lot that could go wrong in the next five years. The EU negotiations and referendum won’t be an easy ride but I wonder whether having tasted a clear victory on May 7th will have impacted on Cameron’s career planning. He is, after all, a relatively young man and would only be 53 at the next election.

If you are prepared to lock up your stake for 5 years then the William Hill 16/1 that he’ll cease to be CON leader in 2021 or later looks a value bet.

Mike Smithson






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After the IndyRef experience it’s going to be harder not to allow 16/17 year olds to vote in the EU referendum

May 25th, 2015

When Alex Salmond pushed through his measure to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in last September’s IndyRef in Scotland it was only a matter of time before this became an issue for the whole of the country.

With constitutional change, like Scotland going independent or Britain leaving the EU, there’s clearly a strong argument that those who will be most affected, the young, should be able to participate in the decision.

    After their apparent reversal on having an EU referendum at all Labour clearly wants to be seen to be doing something that means this is not all a Tory measure.

The big risk to Cameron is that the referendum bill could get clogged up in the House of Lords where it is in the minority. A concession, using the Scottish precedent is possible although it will be strongly opposed by some sections of the blue team.

The polling suggests that the older you are the more you oppose Britain remaining in the EU.

Mike Smithson





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New research finds that the Tories took a third of the ethnic minority vote at GE2015

May 25th, 2015

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The million minority voters that put Cameron into Number Ten

One million ethnic minority votes helped put David Cameron into Downing Street on election night, according to a major new piece of research into attitudes among minority voters released today.

While LAB remains ahead with minority voters on 52%, the research finds that the gap between the two main parties is shrinking dramatically. One third (33%) of ethnic minority voters supported the CON in 2015, a stronger result than ever before for the party, which has historically struggled to appeal to non-white voters. LDs and Greens took 5% of the ethnic minority vote, with 2% voting for UKIP.

The new study, the largest survey of ethnic minority attitudes to be published in the 2015 election cycle, provides surprising new insights into the political views of ethnic minorities in Britain. Conducted by Survation for thinktank British Future, it surveyed 2,000 ethnic minority respondents across Britain straight after the election from 8-14 May.

Translated into votes(1), based on an estimated 3 million ethnic minority taking part in the election, the results equate to 1.6 million votes for LAB, with CON securing one million ethnic minority votes for the first time in the party’s history. The Lib Dems and Greens both secured 150,000 ethnic minority votes, with UKIP on 75,000.

The research also reveals interesting differences in party support by ethnic group, showing much higher support for CON among Asian voters than other ethnic minorities:

Asian: 50% LAB , 38% CON

Black: 67% LAB , 21% CON

Mixed race: 49% LAB , 26% CON

Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:

“Ethnic minority votes are more ‘up for grabs’ than ever before.

“While David Cameron clearly took a lot of votes from the Lib Dems in the election, he also seems to have extended his party’s appeal to ethnic minority voters too.

“Labour remains ahead with minority voters, but the party may have won too many of its minority votes in the wrong places electorally – doubling majorities in heartland urban seats that were already safe but slipping in the southern marginals.

“But in places like Watford, Swindon and Milton Keynes, Conservatives can be increasingly confident of their appeal to aspirational ethnic minority voters.

“The middle-England ‘Mondeo Man’ of the 2015 election could well be a British Asian.”

Different faith groups also gave very different responses, with ethnic minority Christians and Muslims preferring Labour to the Conservatives but Hindus and Sikhs* preferring the Conservatives to Labour:

There were also significant differences by region, with the gap between Labour and Conservative support very small in the south and much larger in the north of England:

England: 53% LAB, 33% CON
South: 43% LAB, 40% CON
Midlands: 60% LAB, 28% CON
North: 60% LAB, 26% CON
London: 54% LAB, 34% CON

Omar Khan, director of the Runnmyede Trust, said:

“These findings confirm that Labour remains the preferred choice among BME voters, but also that the Conservative party has made a breakthrough in winning around a third of those votes, nearly matching their overall national vote share.

“The research also offers new evidence on what we know about voting patterns among different ethnic groups and in different areas in modern Britain.

“Labour’s vote share looks to have held up best in the top 75 most diverse seats in the UK, where half of BME people live. But with more and more BME people moving outside the major cities the conservatives appear well placed to make further gains in 2020 and beyond if they can respond to ethnic inequalities and realise BME aspirations while in government.”

The contents of this post are from the write up on the Survation site.

Mike Smithson





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Marf celebrates gay marriage with a cartoon …

May 24th, 2015

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Labour leadership. TV Hustings will give the unknowns a chance to shine

May 24th, 2015

Don Brind on how the battle might evolve

I sat in a pub in Croydon a couple of days before polling day after an evening canvassing with Clive. We agreed that we had a brilliant Labour candidate in Sarah Jones – but what about Ed Miliband and the doubts we had both heard on the doorsteps? What did Clive think?

“He can’t tell a story, can he?” said Clive. It was exactly the same conclusion I had come to after hearing the Labour leader being interviewed by Nick Ferrari on Classic FM. . It was a friendly interview which gave Miliband the opportunity to talk about his family and their flight from Nazi occupied Europe. Except that none of the stories came alive.

It reminded me that back in 2010 I had changed my mind about supporting Ed after watching him perform weakly alongside brother David on a televised Newsnight hustings. As time went on I had warmed to Ed; particularly his living standards analysis and his emphasis on inequality, which Tony Blair has acknowledged was a gap in New Labour’s approach. And it’s true that his performances improved but the doubts raised by the TV hustings were never fully removed.

Labour members and voters will get the chance to judge the current contenders when Newsnight stages the first hustings of the leadership election in Nuneaton on June 17th.

It will provide a fascinating contrast with the 2010 event when one woman, Diane Abbott, was flanked by four blokes – the Milibands plus Ed Balls and Andy Burnham. Next month Burnham will contend with three women, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh. It will give the unknowns a chance to shine

There is a near parallel with the TV challengers debate during the general election when Ed Miliband appeared with the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, the Green’s Natalie Bennett and Plaid’s Leanne Wood.  It was the high point of Miliband’s campaign with the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee enthusing: “Calm, relaxed, even laughing sometimes, he hit all the buttons … Once he thought presentation didn’t matter – now he knows better.”  

Burnham, MP for Leigh and shadow Health Secretary and the best communicator in the Shadow cabinet has, arguably, the most to lose. According to the bookies he’s the frontrunner but  anyone thinking of betting should remember that, as in the 2007 deputy leadership election when Harriet Harman beat Alan Johnson, 2nd preferences can be crucial.

Like Burnham the Shadow Home Secretary and MP for Pontefract and Castleford Yvette Cooper  is hugely experienced. But she will be looking over her shoulder at Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh. Kendall MP for Leicester West and shadow Health and Community Care minister performed impressively in an interview with Andrew Neil  So too did Mary Creagh., MP for Wakefield and shadow International Development Secretary Both interviews are worth a watch.

At the moment I’m not tipping anyone or supporting anyone. On June 17th and at subseqent hustings I will be looking not just at the performances on the night but at potential.

Back in 1990 as a BBC political producer I stood next to Peter Mandelson as Tony Blair made his first major platform speech at a Labour Party conference. An attack of nerves half way through the speech had him clinging to the lectern like a life raft. What did I think of the speech asked Mandelson. Not bad I said adding that Gordon Brown’s speech earlier in the day had been brilliant. What I had overlooked was the young lawyer’s potential. Mandelson had spotted and nurtured it.

Offering a convincing account of the positives and negatives of the Blair legacy will be another test for his would-be successors. That’s a question for another day.

Don Brind



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The trade union member who could be the next Tory leader

May 24th, 2015

George Osborne praising Robert Halfon’s campaign for cheaper fuel.

I’ve always thought the next leader would be someone associated with George Osborne, he declined to run in 2005 and he probably will not enter the next Tory leadership election, and prefers to be the éminence grise for another Tory leader. Sajid Javid seemed to be best placed in such a scenario, but perhaps, there is another, the man who was Osborne’s Parliamentary Private Secretary prior to the election, Robert Halfon, who must be one of the very few Tory MPs to be a member of a trade union.

Some of Halfon’s policies are the sort you don’t normally associate with the Tory party, in 2012, he wrote a pamphlet entitled “Stop the union-bashing” where he “set[s] out to debunk the myths and misunderstandings about the relationship between the Conservative party and trade unions and conclude[d] that the two could become ‘soulmates.’ In 2013 he talked what sounded like the language of Ed Miliband by talking about a windfall tax on energy companies who he saw as charging too much to their customers.

A few days ago he talked about his boldest idea

Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow, has said the Conservative party should change its name to The Workers’ Party. He told the Sun the party had “an incredible opportunity” to claim the mantle of championing workers’ rights from Labour, and turn the party into “the modern trade union movement for working people”. Their tree logo – which replaced the older torch – could now be exchanged for a ladder, he suggested.

“We are the party of the ladder, it was Churchill who first said that,” said Halfon. “The ladder symbolises everything we’re about . . . It’s not just leaving people to climb up it themselves, we hold that ladder for them. Labour on the other hand are the party of dependency and the welfare state, and that’s why they didn’t get in.”

He added: “When we knock on people’s doors, I want people to know we are on their side – on the side of the workers, that we are the workers. The Labour Party have demonised us, and unsuccessfully as it turned out – as 11 and a half million people still voted for us.”

He’s also a very good campaigner, in 2013, he cost the Treasury 1 billion pounds, with his campaign on lower fuel duty,  Halfon also has the advantage of being recently appointed Deputy Chairman of the Tory Party, which should give him regular unfettered access to Tory activists and members, who ultimately have the final say on who will be the next Tory leader. He also has an interesting way of campaigning as this video shows, which explains his increased majority.

One of the perceptions for the current Tory party is that they are out of touch with most voters due to their backgrounds, electing Robert Halfon would repudiate that line instantly given his background and make it difficult for the opposition parties to attack Halfon in the same way they’ve been attacking the current leadership of the Tory party.

It will be very hard to attack someone who is the son of immigrants, a trade unionist with a disability, non Oxbridge educated guy as an out of touch Tory, especially in light of some of the policy platforms he has set out.

At the time of writing, only four bookies have odds on Robert Halfon as next Tory leader, with Ladbrokes offering the best price of 50/1.

TSE



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STAY likely to win the EU In/Out referendum for the same reason that CON won GE15 – the fear of the unknown

May 23rd, 2015

On the face of it the numbers look good for STAY but are they?

One of the things that the Tory victory on May 7th ensures is that during this parliament there will be an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. The question is which way will it go?

A big campaigning lesson from the general election was how successfully the Tories were able to deploy the fear of the unknown factor in the closing few days. Labour and the Lib Dems in seats they were defending were simply not prepared and had no answer.

The same, I’d suggest, could happen in the coming EU referendum. When faced with a choice between the status quo and the unknown British voters have a long record of opting for the former. Fears about what tomorrow could bring are a very powerful campaign message and will be used extensively by those wanting us to stay.

The polls above, only one of which was carried out after GE15, presents a fairly consistent picture although in today’s context people will rightly question the validity of all political polling.

A factor that could change everything, of course, will be how Cameron’s negotiations with other European leaders on the where Britain has specific concerns are seen to have gone. My guess is that he’ll seek to present the the outcome as showing that sufficient progress has been made to enable him to report things in a positive light. If Cameron recommends LEAVE then in the current context that could happen.

One problem with referenda is that the actual issue being voted upon is sidelined and it becomes a vote on something else.

The bookies make STAY the 4/7 favourite.

Mike Smithson





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David Herdson: Elect in haste; repent at leisure

May 23rd, 2015

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Straight after defeat is not the best time to elect a new leader

Michael Howard did the Conservatives two great favours as leader: the manner of his arrival and the manner of his departure. After the hapless two years under Duncan Smith, he (and David Davis, by standing aside), created a much-needed sense of unity and with it, the first signs of the determination and hunger necessary to regain office. Perhaps even more importantly, after he led his party to a relatively honourable defeat in 2005, he didn’t resign straight away but allowed the Tories time to relax, think and reassess the previous four years before starting the election to succeed him. Had he not done so, it is far less likely that David Cameron would have become leader.

    Not that having thinking space guarantees it will be used wisely – Labour waited until 1980 before picking Michael Foot, for example – but to pitch battle-tired MPs and activists alike into an internal contest within weeks or even days of a general election is asking a lot of their judgement.

It’s also asking a lot of the candidates and such a short timescale inevitably favours front-runners: politicians already at the top or with powerful connections. This matters particularly for Labour where there’s a very high threshold for nominations but applies to all parties simply because name recognition matters even for MPs (how many of those new to Labour’s benches hadn’t even met Burnham or Cooper before this week?). As such, there’s a stronger chance of a continuity candidate, particularly following a defeat. Hague and IDS’s pro-Thatcherite credentials were crucial in winning, as, in a not dissimilar way, was Ed Miliband’s union backing. It is a hard task for any candidate to immediately and credibly disassociate him- or herself from the policies they’ve just fought under. By contrast, some of the clearest turns to the centre, such as the elections of Major, Blair or Clegg, happened mid-term.

It’s even less necessary to pick quickly now with the FTPA in place. Labour could be forgiven for wanting a new leader installed by September 2010 when there was no guarantee the first peacetime coalition government since the 1930s would last the winter never mind five years. There is no such pressure this time. Cameron has a working majority will almost certainly see him through until the EU referendum: there’ll be no general election before October 2017 at the very earliest, and then only if there’s a massive Tory revolt.

So why do it? In some ways, that’s the wrong question. Clearly much depends on whether the sitting leader being willing to stay on or whether it’s possible for a deputy to lead an extended interregnum. Both scenarios depend on the mood of the party in question, both in the House and in the country.

The problem lies in the dual nature of the job, particularly for parties in opposition, which is where most changes occur. It’s all very well picking someone to lead through the next parliament and hold the government to account; that has to be done now. On the other hand, to select someone to fight the next election nearly five years before it happens might be considered a bit previous. If all goes according to the three parties’ respective plans, the Conservatives will select their next PM-candidate more than four years after Labour and the Lib Dems. That carries its own risks but will allow people to make their way through during the parliament. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Tory leader isn’t currently in the cabinet.

The real question is more about goings than comings. If parties have to have leaders all the way through, which they do, then it’s essential that there’s an effective ejection method. That doesn’t have to be a formal mechanism – the Lib Dems replaced Kennedy and Campbell without any such need – but it’s certainly better if it is, not least because such a means stands as a credible threat to an underperforming leader, to be utilized if they refuse to jump. Getting it right, however, is a tricky balance; you want something usable that’s not destabilizing.

But that’s about more than just systems. The Conservatives didn’t materially change their leadership election process between 1975 and 1999 and yet the two halves of that period could not have been more dissimilar: until 1987, not only was Margaret Thatcher not challenged but there was practically no talk of it; by contrast, from thereon, whoever was Tory leader was almost always under threat. What changed was not the process but the mentality of the party (and, it has to be said, its electoral success – or not – at the polls). And getting the right cultural attitude towards leader replacement is as fine a balance as the powers in the rules: too passive and you drift to a foreseeable and perhaps preventable defeat; too aggressive and you become a discredited unruly mob.

Of course, it’s best not to need to change leader at all but if events do plunge a party into an early leadership contest before candidates or electorate are ready, the last thing you want is to be stuck with the wrong person for five years with no effective way out.

David Herdson