Category Archives: Labour Goverment

The State of the Parties 3: the UKIP Lightening Conductor


We are now entering a critical phase of this electoral cycle: local elections, parliamentary elections, further local elections, the European elections and the Scottish referendum on independance The outcomes of these elections will set the agenda for the next General Election. In this cycle, the fortunes of UKiP will determine the outcome of the General Election So long as UKIP’s standing in national polls is in excess of 10 percent, and it now stands at 13 percent in some polls, the Tories cannot win a General Election and Labour will be handicapped in the drive for a majority at Westminster. It is an easy prediction to make that UKIP is likely to top the Euro polls and at some time during 2014 will be showing, in some national opinion polls, support in the 20’s before a decline as the General Election approaches.

I assume that Scottish voters stay in control of their good senses and will vote No in the Scottish referendum. If so one would expect electoral support for the SNP to decline and a recovery of the Labour vote at Westminster to take place in Scotland. If this occurs then Laboiur would be diffiult to defeat in Westminster elections.

While economic predictions are foolhardy the odds are on poor economic performance up to May 2015. The best the Tories can hope for is slow growth, stable employment and a deficit edging slowly downwards. There will be little prospect of electoral bribes. This being so it is safe to predict that the chance of a Tory majority at the next
General Election are near to zero.

What then are the prospects for the Lib Dems? I do not under-rate the resiliance of the Lib Dems. However, if in the public mind they remain linked to the Tories in Coalition a reasonable prediction is that their parliamntsary position would decline substantially with a loss of 30-40 MPs. It would follow from this that it would be
most unlikely that they could play any part in a national coalition with any other party.

In these circumstances I would expect UKIP to win some Westminster seats at the expense of the Coalition parites but not enought seats to achieve any tactical advantage.

If this analysis is broadly right we would haver had a further shake in the party system that could in some circumstance lead to paralysis. As the economic circumstasnces inherited by a new Labour Government would be difficult if not dire Britain might emerge from the experiment of Coalition in a virtually ungovernable
situation.

All this will become clearer to participants and pundits. Will those individuals at the heart of this disaster do nothing? I have never believed that they would behave as rabbits staring into car lights. The Coalitiion will break up and David Cameron could be confronted with a leadership election before May 2015.

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The Economy Stupid


Elections are won on economics: its the economy stupid. Our numbers are bad but they will become worse. If the Eurozone collapsess they will be disastrous. But party alleigances are static. Hello, out there is any one listening. The reasons for static polls are well-known: mcu blame is attached to Labour’s inheritance of deby and the, seconly, the electorate are dogmatically fair-minded – they give credit for trying. The Coalition is trying – but in more than one meaning of the word. So it is a long and hard road for Labour toi convince the electorate that they could do better. 

What will change things are events. Anyone looking back in 2011 knows how difficult it is to predict them. If they are external events there is a breathless pause while the country rallies round. What woul be the public reaction to a forced opening of the Straits of Hormouz if petrol prices doubled. How would the public react to yet another war? Would it really come to that? It might. Would things look bad for the Coalition if unemployment topped three million. Mrs Thatcher recovered from that but then she needed a successful invasion of the Falklands.

Sometimes Government’s implode. What would make the Coalition implode.  European policy might if Cameron was foolhardy. Surely he won’t be tempted but you never know. Perhaps not. The Coalition might split. Not much chance of that. It is in the Lib Dem interest to soldier on rather than than be decimated by the electorate. 

Once I would have been bold and would make a prediction. Should we settle for a quiet life with more of what we have got. I hope not. Perhaps if I predict it we shall get something more exhilarating. OK nothing will happen in 2012.

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: Public Borrowing: Nearer and nearer draws the time


The constant ctiticism of the Government’s budget deficit figures is that the cuts are too great and too fast. The effect, or merely the impression, that this is so affects consumers, output and employment. The prognosis of the Coalition is that such a policy will lead to a stagnant low-growth economy and the deficit would not come down very much, if at all.

It is disappointing to the critics that so little publicity was given to public borrowing in the first two months of this financial year which shows just that: borrowing in the first two months of  2011/12 is up from £25.9 billion to £27.4 billion – up not down! 

Of course one swallow – or is it two- does not a summer make. Or does it? Well, this argument should be settl;ed in July when we have three months figures for GNP, empliyment and public borrowing. It will be a relief to pass from conjecture to fact. There are enough straws in the wind to suggest that growth will be either exceedingly modest or none at all. If then public sector borrowing has not fallen when compared with last year, the Coalition target of eliminating the deficit in four years will be lost.

Politicians will busily spin. It will be argued that there are special factors: currency uncertainty in Europe, a stalling US economy and slow downs in the BRIC countries who are expected to fuel a global economy. All very true and plausible. However, these pleas should go on deaf ears. There are always special factors and Governments are supposed to make allowance for them. The game will be up – and it should be called.

The absence of what is called a Plan B, or Plan C for that matter, places the Coalition with a conundrum. What is to be done? – as Lenin would utter. Is such a dilemma not worth a vote of no- confidence. I can hear the objections. There is no prospect of unseating the Government  and you look silly and weak if you move these motions without a chance of a majority. Is not this what the leadership of the Labour Party is really about? The baring of breasts and the gnashing of teeth which passes for Opposition now does not meet the challenge of the times. What about a reasoned motion putting forward a number of believable proposals for kick starting the economy followed by a no confidence motion? Anything less than this will fail. Those who urge an alternative economic policy should have the courage to enunciate it now. Well in July, actually. Any sign of heads being knocked together or is it time for hols? Time enough said slow.

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The Budget: A Tiptoe into Fantasy


A word about forecasting now that the OBR has had its third attempt to plot the economic progress of the British Economy. Like accountants before them the OBR is useful in recording the past but well-nigh useless in forecasting the future. We live in a time of  extreme economic turbulence and uncertainty when at any      time  wars, earthquakes, worldwide  pressure on resources and the stupidities of the human race can turn  nice judgements into inanities. Yet still we persist. It will be better in the future: the economy will grow, employment will rise, inflation will come down and real incomes will rise again. The OBR at least has the common sense to admit that all its forecasts are subject to great uncertainty. Well yes, they say, it may not turn out like this but we hope it will.

I commit myself to several judgements, First, the attempt to eliminate the budget deficit in a five year Parliament is doomed to failure. At  best the Coalition may complete the Parliament having achieved what Labour continues to promise: the deficit could be halved. We have in the Coalition a group of supply side fanatics who have always maintained that growth must come through a smaller state and greater productivity, who are antagonistic to public administration and welfare and suspicious of the state as pump priming anything. Come back Milton Friedman, all is forgiven. Economists have an adage that you can lead a horse to a trough but you cannot make it drink. The IFS has remarked that the numerous supply side intiatives announced in the Budget do not amount to a row of beans. They will add nothing to aggregate demand. What is needed is the pump priming of capital investment in rail, roads and building construction and a real (rather than imaginary) attempt to raise skill levels. Of course the Government is aware of these needs. It is doing something – but too little.

The central issue of George Osborne’s budget is a judgement of whether this Government at this time is right in believing that it is possible to eliminate the budget deficit in five years. If it is right in its belief it will go on to the glory dreamt of by our Dave and Nick. The objectives of financial probity and economic sucess will be achuieved and electoral success will be the reward. If it is imposible for Britain (and I suspect Greece, Ireland and Portugal) to do anything of the kind when will the game be up? I suggest the Budget of 2012 will be the time of reckoning. The Parliamentary rules now make it difficult to get rid of a Government – but not impossible. And at this time who might be leading the Labour Party. Might events work in favour of Ed Balls? The electorate love a winner. Watch this spot!

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Libya: the Anglo-French Bellicose Alliance


I have a complaint to make. Could not the media, and in particular the  television news channels, raise its game in the reporting of the Libyan crisis? Can anyone explain for me the rationale behind an Anglo-French alliance pressing for war to aid the overthrow of the Libyan regime? Of course, I know the bit about the importance of supporting democracy throughout the Middle East and the horror of a government slaughtering its own people to maintain an authoritarian and unpleasant dictator and his family. Let me pin my colours to the mast. I am on the side of the rebellion. But is it not a fair question to ask for a reason for Britain and France to be the most bellicose Western powers and alone in pressing for armed intervention? Why is France so premature in recognising the rebel Council in Benghazi as the legitimate government of Libya? Is there anything in the history of Anglo-French relations with Libya that might help an analysis of the issue.

Look, I am hesitant in suggersting an over-riding issue. But what distinguises Britain and France from other members of the European Union? Hold your hats, please. They are major suppliers of arms to Libya and other African states. David Cameron has told a wondering British public that  the principal objective of British foreign policy under the Coalition  is now to be the promotion of trade. Is he not fresh back from visits to authoritarian Middle Eastern states accompanied by British arms dealers? Hasn’t he nailed his colours to the mast? Could it not be that he has his eyes on the opportunities that would be opened up for arms deals if the Gaddafi Libyan regime were to fall?

As for France, in 1967 the French government was quick to welcome the Gaddafi regime in  and became a major arms supplier for his regime. But France was greedy and insisted on selling the sme equipment to Gaddafi’s African neighbours so nullifying any Libyan military advantage.  Libya decided to buy its weapons elsewhere. Here is a new opportunity for France. Aid the rebels and rearm Libya.

And then there is the issue of oil. Could it be an interest of Britain and France to gain new oil concessions and protect existing contracts? That is a major issue in its own right. But you get my drift. And what unworthy thoughts they are. I’m suggesting that these two right wing governments are desperate to be on the side of new democratic countries which they imagine are evolving from the ruins and contradictions of the existing authoritarian regimes.  I am suggesting more than this. In the world of real politik they are desperate to take any action, no matter how absurd and reckless, to place themselves in the vanguard of the revolution.

Let us suppose that they are wrong. Could it be that the regimes that emerge from the ruins of the old are very like the ones they supplanted and their national interests  are unchanged? Could it be that our government in its desperate search for fools gold has got it wrong? Is it too wrong and misguided of me to point this out? Come on, BBC. Isn’t that your job? Never mind the pictures what are the issues?

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Cameron the Cowboy


Q. Dave, when you were a young lad were you a Cowboy or an Indian and why?  Answ. A Cowboy, of course. I believed that the Cowboy’s were the winners and the Indian’s the losers, and history proved me right, did it not? Q. Who were the moral winners? Answ. The Coyboys of course, the right is always morally superior. Why do you start with such a question? Q. For good reasons. You have recently approved an SAS and Royal Airforce mission into Libya in what appears to have been a storm in the desert, that is an intrusion into the airspace of another country, the use of ground troops and the involvement of Royal Air Force C130s without the approval of Parliament , NATO or the  the UN. Wasn’t that an incredibly dangerous thing to do? When President Carter tried it he made a terrible mistake and became the laughing stock of the world. Answ.  Oh come off it. we won didn’t we. The British public love the SAS and we pulled it off didn’t we? Q.  What I understand is that a plane was hit by small arms fire and wasn’t some attempt made to slash the tyres of one plane? What if the people firing had heavier calibre weapons, might that not have brought the plane down with the loss of 150 lives including foreign nationals. Answ. I never comment on operational details. Are you saying we should not have acted to save these men? Q. Yes, I am saying that? Answ. Well I think you will find that British people are on my side in this. Everyone loves a winner. Q. Another question Dave. Were these C130s given fighter aircraft cover and if not why not? Answ. Good question. Naturally, I took advice but every Captain must in the end trust his own judgement. I didn’t become Chief Cowboy, if you pardon the mixed expression, by accident. Q. Straight answer Dave, please , yes or no? Answ. Look, you know me well. I’m a politician I can’t give you such an answer. Q. Were the Chiefs of Staff consulted? Answ. Ditto. Look I’m getting rather cross about this. Chief Cowboys are not asked these kinds of question. Q. OK. Let’s vary it a little. Have you had any military resignations over this and are there any in the offing? Answ. Well I can answer that one. No. And I don’t expect any. Q. Last questions Dave. Isn’t this a prime example of the strategic advantage of aircrat carriers. Not in the misty ages to come BUT now? Wouldn’t the Ark Royal and a few Harriers have provided the air cover that a mission like this needed?  And secondly, did you consult the Americans? Answ. Look you liver-lilied journalist (a joke, let’s see you smile). A Leader must lead and journalist must follow. Isn’t that the right order of things, the Scheme of things? As for the American’s, all you journalists go on about the inability of Britain to act independently but when I do it you are the first to criticise. And thank you for the session , very invigorating it was too. Now back to the war games. Tally oh, chin chin, and all that. All I need now is a twiddly moustache. Can’t afford the wax in this age of austerity. All the responsibility of the previous Labour administration as I have said before.

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A Very English Revolution


In England we do not do Revolutions. They are for foreign countries denied freedom of expression and parliamentary government. Is that right? It seems so but the belief in social cohesion and solidarity of purpose is about to be tested. Our beliefs may turn out to be illusory. In 2011/2 real incomes are likely to fall at a faster pace than at any time since the 1920’s a decade followed by slow growth and high unemployment. At that time we took it all very meekly. Then, as now, some thirty percent of the population was doing very nicely. They were in employment and enjoying steady increases in real wages. Unemployment and poverty was concentrated in foreign places: Scotland, Wales and the frozen North. Of course, the unemployed protested, but in a orderly fashion: hunger marches, dole queues and long lines of working people not at all like us. Men, and families, to be pitied, consciences to be stirred,  but largely to be forgotten on golf courses and at bridge parties.

Over the last two years citizens, you know the ordinary folk who pay the wages of the political elites, have wondered whether ‘that lot’ at Westminster are really representing us at all. While hardly anyone wishes to resurrect class war, many people must wonder whether these Old Etonians with their posh accents and monied interests really ‘get us’ the people. Do we wish to pass back to a Victorian condition of poor public sevices and a Samuel Smiles concept of self help and charity to all (sorry some, the deserving poor). 

Well, what can we do about it? Those who object We could start by admitting to ourselves that we are responsible. We allowed this lot to gang up against us, cobble together an agreement that no one voted for, and are busy changing the rules so that it is extremely difficult to get rid of a government in the short term.

I can hear some of my readers objections at this point. Come on now, they say, this is a parody of the truth. Every citizen knows that the huge public deficit must be reduced and the sooner the better. Personally I agree: drastic problems require drastic remedies. But just suppose that the economic strategy being imposed upon us is wrong. It doesn’t work. What if we are destroying a valued social structure and welfare state for nothing? What then? Why, you say, in all reasonableness . if we are proceeding for the rocks we can change course Can we? Boy George and our Dave say. ‘Not on your Nellie’, or words to that effect, Like the Blessed Margaret before them these Old Etonians warming themselves in the last rays of an   August sunset across their playing fields are not for turning.

Well Boys, then we must get rid of you by the means at our disposal. They know it, you can see it in their faces. and the panic measures they advance. Can we the people do it? Can we the people save ourselves? I don’t know. But I do pose the question

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Let’s Play Consequences


The electorate is a sceptical lot. So far that has worked in favour of the Coalition. After all it has to be accepted by reasonable people that the budget deficit must be lowered as rapidly as possible and if the OBR tells us that there will be more people in employment  by the end of 2011 then who will gainsay them. Opposition doomsayers predicting a 1930’s style depression  for some years can be safely shrugged aside. ‘They would say that wouldn’t they’ being  a common reaction. However, today’s increase in the  unemployment figures may make a difference to all that. Whichever way you look at it these are grim figures. So far the Coalition has benefited from the Labour fiscal stimulus and the first economic upturns in world trade. But as the blessed Gordon has told us there has been no follow through internationally to a viable global economic growth stategy. The moment has been lost and the monetarists have had their day. Goodness! Might Gordon (blessed be his name)  have been right all along? 

So far the Tories have been continued to ride high in the opinion polls at around 40 percent , marginally higher than in the General Election  while the Lib Dems have incurred the  public wrath with 60 percent of their vote disappearing. As the recession grips this will change , although given the nature of Tory  support among the affluent it is likely that support will  remain in the 30’s. The Tory position relies on  self-engendered high levels of confidence and David Cameron’s exuberant leadership. It can be expected that he will lash himself to the mast as the storms break upon the ship of state but not all the crew will remain. Some will cower below deck while others will wash overboard. The storm reaches an early climax in May with local and assembly elections and the AV referendum.

It is not all cheer for Ed Milliband. He has sought to play a long game and to plead unpreparedness for an early tilt at power. Might it not be desirable to build an acceptable platform much earlier than he has supposed? Come on Ed, get on with it. I have always believed that there should be good odds for an early General Election, say June 2011. I notice that the smart money has shifted  to it with the odds shortening  from 20/1 to 4/1. There is still time for you to put your money on. 

And a word to the besieged Lib Dems. Jump now while you have the opportunity to do so. Labour could do a deal not to oppose Lib Dem MPs linking  loosely with Labour at least in those seats in the south where the Libs may still have a chance. After all if the ship is sinking who could blame you for wishing to save yourselves.

You might think that I am in advance of my self and you would be right. But judgement is crucial in politics as in life itself. For God’s sake jump, your country needs you.

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The Sham Society


David Cameron has given us the vision thing at the Tory Party Conference. He was strong on his daft notion of the Big Society; so daft that it is doubtful if many of the faithful in the hall or TV viewers could fathom out what he was talking about. In some ways it was chrystal clear. We were listening to the mantra of the unreconstructed right: small government, low taxes, a foreign and defence policy narrowly focussed on protection of trade and the substituion of the expert manager or official by a untrained volunteer labour force. Arisotle is resurrected from a grave where he slumbered peacefully. Now we are all  to be citizens busy about the social affairs of our neighbours and running things without expertise: a nation of professional workers is to to be substituted  by busybodies. None of this is to decry the role of voluntary associations in our national life but they can only become more useful as a caring and enabling states extends its role.

This Tory simplicity and yearning for a return to pastoral virtues will, of course, run into the ground. At the moment it is in the ascendant. There are at least three, and probably more, categories of Tory on display. There is the brutal and rather simple category which bathes in the glory of a world reduced to its own simplicities; the blustery and crude men and women on the climb are seizing their opportunity; and then there  is the sophisticted men and women of the world who understanding the difficulties of life in its infinite human variety look on us, the electors, with half smiles and a midgeon of compassion.

This world, in all its complexities, is about to inflict its revenge on those engaged in this nonsense. The revenge although in part uncontrollable does need political direction.  It must become clear to the electorate that there is a viable Opposition to the  Coalition’s half-baked solutions to national and international problems. Ed Milliband must roll up his sleeves and get down to the job of saving us all from the economics and politics of Alice in Wonderland.

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Milliband Pragmatism


I believe that the first duty of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Parliament is to oppose. But is it right to oppose measures some of which you approve in order to get the other lot out? Lenin would have had no difficulty. His objective was the overthrow capitalism and its replacement  with a socialism. To hell with sensible social democratic reforms and shoot the bankers. You know the kind of thing. Long live the Revolution. What approach will Labour under Ed Milliband do?

Ed has already given us clues. The Coalition has come up with a Constitutional Bill , one of whose objectives is to cement Coalition rule for five years and to make it more difficult for the Coalition parties to win next time by changing the electoral system and gerrymandering the constituencies. In his Conference speech Ed told us that he is in favour of electoral reform and   will support AV in the proposed Referendum. How about changes to the Benefit System? Ed says he will support sensible changes to reform Benefit Entitlement  and so get more people into work. But would he support these changes if accompanied by an end to universal benefits, to Child Allowances, and the Winter Fuel Allowance, for example, to enable expensive reform to go ahead? Can you have one without the other? Ed is watching the progress of the Hutton enquiry into pay differentials, and no doubt talking to him (Why not? They must know each other well.) If Hutton comes up with sensible proposals, we might infer that they would have Labour support. 

These examples show that Ed is not RED in any meaningful sense. He is in that that tepid category of social reformers, of which I am one, who is prepared to support policies which realise social democratic aspirations. And he is a pragmatic with it.

Labour support for sound social democratic polices is to be welcomed as a contribution to good governance. What else could we desire? Might it not encourage alliance building acroos the floor of the House? Might it become more difficult for the Far Right to move the Coalition in reactionary directions and moderate the worst of the cuts? Might it in some circumstances encourage Lib Dems to vote against socially divisive policies that they abhor? Might cross party voting become the norm in this Parliament? Can some Lib Dems join with Labour and vote out damaging cuts across the floor of the House?

Moderation such as this is to be welcomed. It will be welcomed by the mass of the electorate because this is what it wants. If our Dave and Boy George become aware of open up opposition in the House might they not, even at this late stage, moderate their enthusiasm for cuts? It is possible. Might this be the tenor of discussions between the Labour Party and Charles Kennedy? No need to leave the House or quit the Lib Dems. Join together with Labour and vote out that which you think disastrous and wrong. I have always thought that there was enough cunning in the Tory camp to avoid this, that there is a Plan B and perhaps a Plan C. Who knows? Of course, I could be wrong. Ed could be wrong. In this case perhaps I shall bring out my Red Flag and chant Long Live Lenin with the rest of them.

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