Posts Tagged ‘labour’
So, on the day of the second televised leaders debates what are we to make of the new political landscape? Are we heading for a revolution in the way we see and perceive our political leaders or is it all just smoke and mirrors.
Certainly, there is a real danger that voters could be seen to be concentrating more on the televised debates than the policies of the main parties and we are seeing skewed polling figures as a result.
There is a danger that the polls are simply reflecting people’s reaction to the debates rather than their voting intention, a view reinforced by one poll’s immediate reaction from the debate showing the Lib Dems with a 51% share of the vote - more than enough to confirm Nick Clegg as Prime Minister with a healthy working majority.
These views are not necessarily based on the policies of the Lib Dem Party but how Nick Clegg is perceived by television viewers. The debates only provide time for the briefest of glimpses into the party’s policies - there is no time for any discussion on the the detail behind the policy headlines.
The subsequent reduction in the Lib Dem share of the vote in polls demonstrates that the televised debate certainly had a short term but significant effect in voters’ minds. The impact of the debate and the poll rise for the Lib Dems, even if short lived, has given a boost in momentum for the Lib Dems which may be hard for the other parties to counter.
So, has the televised debate reduced the election campaign to little more than a non-political beauty contest?
It will be up to David Cameron and Gordon Brown to react to the Clegg factor and I am sure that they will be working harder than ever to try to alter the perceptions and work on the lessons learned from the first debate to regain some lost ground.
This may give rise to personalised politics and possibly more negative campaigning, we shall see.
Either way, it is unlikely that the public will be taken in by magic tricks or sleight of hand.
We have also heard from the party leaders that “the people” will decide if there will be a hung Parliament or not.
I’m quite sure that if there was a candidate in every constituency under the name of “hung” or “hung Parliament” then they would have a better than even chance of being elected but let’s be clear, you cannot gerrymander or tactically vote for a hung parliament - it requires an unusual set of circumstances.
The people will certainly decide but they will not go into the polling booths thinking they can vote for a hung Parliament. If we end up with a hung Parliament it would be an associative outcome rather than causality.
Tags: conservative, David Cameron, General Election, Gordon Brown, Government, Hung Parliament, labour, lib-dem, Nick Clegg, Prime Minister, Televised debate
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It’s here, the much-anticipated second leader’s debate. What will happen? Will Clegg triumph again? Will Brown again posture towards the Lib-Dems or will he try to go it alone? Will Cameron finally bring up his Big Society policy, even though it has nothing to do with foreign affairs, the topic for the second debate?
Below is a brief synopsis of how I think it will go for each leader.
His star is shining bright, so there will be sky high expectations of him. Unfortunately, foreign affairs is probably the Lib-Dems worst subject. Clegg has flip-flopped on the Euro issue and now says taking on the Euro would be a mistake, but at the same time, it is there in black and white in the Lib-Dem manifesto that one day the UK should accept the Euro. Essentially, the Lib-Dems love Europe, especially Clegg. This isn’t necessarily going to go down well with some swing voters, but the question is, how many of these people are actually going to vote for the Lib-Dems anyway?
Clegg is also in an interesting position as expectations are high. Brown and especially Cameron are going to try to ground him. But all Clegg has to do is misquote Reagan again and again - “There they go again” in response to the two bigger parties’ attacks. He probably doesn’t need to answer a question other than make everyone feel sorry for the little guy. I feel this is the best option, because going on the attack and trying to be equal to Labour and the Tories on foreign policy is a mistake - because he’d lose.
If Clegg is under pressure, Cameron is under just as much if not more. He has to up his game significantly from the first debate, where he forgot to mention his key domestic policies. Problem is, foreign affairs isn’t the Tories strongest subject and they have been out of power for 13 years, so their international reputation may not be as strong as they’d like it to be.
Cameron will be hit on his ‘iron clad guarantee’ for a referendum on Europe. It obviously isn’t going to happen and there are a lot of conservatives, not party members, just conservatives, who don’t trust his Europe policies. Likewise, Brown and Clegg are both going to hammer him on the Conservative’s relationships within Europe, including his Polish partners.
His promise to keep an independent DFID and legislate a 0.7% aid budget will also come under fire from ultra-conservative voters. I know many aid groups are pleasantly surprised by this, but when you can’t secure your base, it’s not the best strategy to try to out flank your opposition from the left.
Cameron is also going to mention the Iran question, but his intervention during the green revolution was reported by some as a gaffe. The UK and the USA statements focused on a “we’re watching with interest”, because they knew public support of the protestors would enable the Iranian officials to claim the unrest was caused by UK and USA intervention. However, Cameron came out and decried the lack of support from Brown to the protestors and publically stated that the protestors had the support of the UK people. This was naive foreign policy.
Gordon Brown has relationships overseas, in fact believe it or not, he is very well-respected internationally, in 2009 he was voted world statesmen of the year and is respected overseas more than in the UK. This is his biggest trump card and needs to play it. This is hugely beneficial for issues such as the Tobin Tax, Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East in general. Afghanistan funding will again be a weak spot due to issues such as the numbers of helicopters etc.
He also needs to be more forceful I feel. Although he performed above expectations in the last debate, I think the Iron Chancellor needs to be on the stage. Due to the lack of audience interaction, jokes don’t necessarily play well on TV due to the silence in the studio - it makes it sound like the joke has fallen flat. Brown did well confronting Cameron on the police issues in the first debate and I thought the “it’s answer time not question time”, was effective. He needs to do it again, especially on Europe.
Brown is less pro-EU that Clegg, he keeps Europe at an arm’s length, but with an open palm, not a clenched fist. This will make voters feel more comfortable.
But he still has the image problem and that will be his biggest weakness.
All-in-all, it will be a fascinating evening and I’m looking forward to seeing the polls the next day.
Cross posted with my personal blog
Tags: afghanistan, Brown, cameron, clegg, Conservatives, debate, election, eu, Europe, foreign policy, International Development, labour, Lib Dems, polls
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Labour, the Lib-Dems and now the SNP all have at least one thing in common, they all seem to have the Tories directly in their crosshairs as the Tories seem to be under the most scrutiny and attack so far in the election campaign.
Of course none of this is a shock, it is only natural for the parties to have a go at each other, but what is striking about the attacks on the Tories is that it would normally be reserved for an incumbent Government, rather than the Opposition. The Tories are obviously the bookies favourite to win the most seats, at the very least the largest number in a Hung Parliament, so they are seen as the biggest threat by all of the parties.
Labour is obviously going after the Tories on everything as their prime competition. The Lib-Dems are trying to impress themselves onto voters as the eligible kingmakers whilst protecting their own seats which is evidenced most recently by Nick Clegg launching a “VAT Bombshell” poster campaign focusing on the Tory tax scheme. Alex Salmond is also trying to scare voters away from voting Tory in Scotland by running with a line that the Tories will go on a “smash-and-grab” spree by reviewing £1billion worth of funding to Scotland.
The latest Lib-Dem attack on the Conservative tax strategy
Of all of the parties, this probably benefits Labour the most as a lot of the “attack-dog” work they would normally have to do is being done by the smaller parties on a far more targeted level than the Labour election war chest would normally allow. The Tories therefore have to spend more time defending their policies and ideas on a national scale as well as batting away attacks on a more geographically targeted scale. Labour, while still needing to point out their perceived flaws in Conservative policy has more of an opportunity to sell in their policies.
Whether this will make a huge difference on Election Day, we will only know on May 7 but what is sure is the Tories would like more scrutiny on Labour, rather than being almost constantly defending their own policies and agenda. Labour would therefore be enjoying the underdog status and it is well known this is a position where Brown feels very comfortable.
Cross posted with my personal blog.
Tags: campaiging, conservative, election 2010, labour, Liberal Democrats, Tax
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The main points of the Budget as announced are as follows:
- The economy is expected to grow between at 1 and 1.5% in 2010
- Growth forecast for 2011 revised to between 3% and 3.5%
- VAT, income tax or National Insurance to remain at present rates
- Borrowing will be £167bn this year - £11bn lower than the forecast of £178b
- Debt will be £100bn lower by 2013/14 than predicted at last year’s Budget
- One third of civil service jobs to be located away from London
- Stamp Duty threshold will be raised to £250,000 - nine out of ten first-time buyers will not be liable for Stamp Duty
- Stamp Duty on homes worth £1m increased to 5%
- The planned 3p increase in fuel duty will be phased - up by 1p in April, 1p in October and 1p in January 2011
- Alcohol duty will rise by 2% above inflation by 2013
- Duty on cider will go up by 10% above inflation from Sunday
- Duty on tobacco will increase by 1% above inflation immediately, then 2% in subsequent years
- Inheritance tax will be frozen for four years
- Tax agreements extended to three additional countries - Dominica, Grenada and Belize, to target tax evasion
- The Government will consider scrapping the compulsory retirement age
- Pensioners’ higher winter fuel payment will continue next yea
- Everyone in the UK is to be guaranteed access to a bank account
- The Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds will lend £94bn to business - at least half to small and medium-sized firms.
- The Government will set up a Green Bank controlling £2bn of equity to focus on investing in greener, cleaner energy and transport
- Business rates will be cut for a year from October bringing a tax reduction for 500,000 small firms in England
- £2.5bn support for small business to boost skills and innovation
- Investment allowance for small firms doubled to £100,000
- £385m will be invested to maintain road network
- Families with one and two-year-olds will receive an extra £4 a week in child tax credits
More reaction to follow.
Tags: alistair darling, Borrowing, Budget, Chancellor, conservative, David Cameron, Deficit, Duty, General Election, Gordon Brown, labour, Repayment, Tax
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Well today is the day of the long-awaited pre-election budget. It is a budget presented in the backdrop of a slowly recovering UK economy, just weeks before a General Election. For both Labour and the Conservatives it is a chance for some heavy hitting and potential national poll gains.
Alistair Darling is undoubtedly in a difficult position for today’s Budget as the UK is recovering from a severe recession and is saddled with a heavy budget deficit. To reflect this he has said that today’s budget will be a ’sensible, workmanlike’ set of proposals.
This suggests there may not be pre-election giveaways, although there are some potential vote winning measures being suggested in the press. It is thought that the Chancellor will propose a halt in the rise of petrol duty and scrapping stamp duty on house sales above £250,000 as well as creating a £1bn green fund for nuclear and wind power investment.
In terms of difficult and potentially unpopular decisions Mr Darling is likely to announce the removal of tax credits for people earning above £100,000 and a freezing of all income tax bands, which will mean people pay more tax on their earnings. This comes on top of the 50p higher rate of income tax, which comes into force next month.
Ruder Finn will be looking out for key proposals as they are announced and you can follow this via twitter at @ruderfinnuk.
As a final comment on today’s budget I would suggest that the big question to bear in mind for this budget is: with a General Election just weeks away can the Conservatives effectively critique today’s budget and increase their poll rating, particularly on the economy, or will Labour come through this potentially tricky budget unscathed?
Tags: alistair darling, Budget, Conservatives, labour
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A foreign client asked us recently:
“We have been hearing so much about the UK General Election recently, could you clarify what is going on.”
Oh dear, we all groaned:
“The Conservatives were bound to win” he continues “and then their poll lead shrinks and then they are looking good again and then it’s definitely a Labour victory. Now we hear Hung Parliament. Each day there is a new story: What is going on?”
This is probably the most challenging question public affairs execs face at the moment. I dread it because everyone has a different opinion based on a poll they have read, which assures them of a certain scenario.
This is being fuelled by newspapers and political blogs publishing a huge volume of headline opinion poll figures, which seem to directly contradict each other.
But I actually do not agree that the picture is so cloudy. I actually think that the emerging polls are, in many ways, relatively consistent, but there are factors that are clouding the picture.
So at the risk of developing an eggy face below I explain what I think will happen at the General Election and what is clouding the picture:
1. The ignored indicators - When you dig below the surface of tabloid headlines to less interesting polling numbers, a consistent picture of the General Election emerges:
a. The Labour Party has lost a great deal of the voters who voted for them in 2005; the Conservative Party have retained most of their supporters
b. National polls have shown that since 2006 the percentage of people who want a change of Government has stayed broadly the same - 70%
c. Polls and indicators from key marginal seats, which if won would ensure a good election result for the Conservative Party do not tally with the fluctuations recorded at national level. From my experiences the situation is far more consistent and is positive for David Cameron.
So why do we ignore these numbers:
2. The Role of Newspapers - Each national newspaper realises that in Election season new polling figures create a great headline. The Sunday Times carried the story of the Conservative lead shrinking to 2 points and immediately had a hook that ensured their newspaper was picked up by inquisitive voters. Yet, these headline poll numbers are taken out of context. We rarely read the scale of the survey; the immediate context or the questions that people are asked. We just see the headline figure and absorb it into our consciousness, thinking it is definitive when it is not. Unless you realise the situation the poll was created in how can you tell what it means?
Weighing these factors up I believe that the Conservative Party are on to win the General Election with a majority. I do believe that the hype of the election campaign means people are fluctuating in their opinion of the national parties and their leaders when asked in national polls.
But I think that this ignores the fact that on Election Day people will be forced to choose who they want to represent them in their constituency and the signs suggest that they will vote for a change. Whether they will vote for the reformed Conservative Party is an important issue, but I think in order to facilitate a change of Government floating voters will be prepared to vote for the Conservative Party. I think people do want to get rid of Gordon Brown and want a new Government.
I could be proved wrong, but I agree with a politician who told me recently that: “when the British people decide they want a change, they normally make sure it happens”. This is what the polls suggest and this is my prediction.
Tags: conservative, David Cameron, General Election, Gordon Brown, labour, polls, sunday times
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On the 4th of January The Conservative Party launched their election campaign by releasing this new 15-ft wide poster, which is erected on 759 sites across the country. Already it has been one of the talking points of the election campaign and like marmite, people either love or hate it. So, I wanted to have a look at the key features that are drawing attention:
The face: The Conservative Party have conceded that the face has had ‘minor’ airbrushing. Left-wing critics have drawn attention to this saying it shows his preoccupation with style, whilst the Conservatives say the picture was chosen partly by Samantha Cameron as it was serious-looking.
The clothes: Cameron is shown without a tie, which has become a common feature of his leadership. Apparently this was developed by Steve Hilton, his PR guru, to show that he is both in touch and ready for business. Advertisers have said that this image gives off a strong message of his willingness to get on with the job of Prime Minister.
The text: The use of the term ‘I’ in the second sentence has been used to emphasise Cameron’s popularity over Gordon Brown, advertisers suggest. Combined with the photo it emphasises him rather than the party as the selling point to the voters. It is reported that Conservative polling suggests this is one of Cameron’s big pluses. Critics have parodied the big brother nature of the poster and said it shows Cameron is a modern element in an old-fashioned party.
The message: The message, highlighting the NHS, has been used to counter the Labour attempts to define themselves as a party of investment. It is also highlighting one of the cores of the Conservative election strategy - the size of the budget deficit.
Some people have highlighted the use of the term ‘cut’ in the same sentence as the NHS may impact negatively. The terms could be associated and seem too negative.
Reaction to the poster
Labour party figures immediately attacked the poster because it was airbrushed. John Prescott went on the attack parodying David Cameron and the Daily Mirror also criticised the poster.
But other advertising figures have said it sends a strong message and plays to his key strengths. Commentators also say that it shows the speedier start to the election campaign on behalf of the Conservative Party. This could reflect the greater funds reported to be at the Conservative leaders’ disposal.
So, bearing that all in mind, what do you think? Hit, Miss, Maybe?
For me it is a HIT - simple, effective and to the point. But I know others will think differently.
Tags: conservative, daily mirror, David Cameron, election, labour
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As the Queen arrives at Westminster it is worth remembering that the Monarch is not permitted to enter the House of Commons and is only allowed into the Palace of Westminster by invitation. It remains the only royal palace to which the Monarch has no automatic right of entry.
Charles I was the last Monarch to enter the Commons in 1642 when he attempted to arrest John Pym and four other Members of Parliament for treason. The Speaker William Lenthall, when asked to point out the conspirators famously replied:
“May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.”
However, the Monarch has been invited today to open Parliament and she has now arrived at the Monarch’s entrance.
Black Rod will approach the House of Commons and the door will be ceremonially slammed in his face. He will ten use his rod to knock the door three times. This is to allow the Commons to confirm that he is not the Monarch and signifies that although the Monarch is on the premises he is merely a messenger delivering her command.
Tags: Government, labour, Majesty, Monarch, Parliament, Queen's Speech, Royal Palace, Speaker
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The Queen's Speech - far from a royal affair.
On Wednesday this week the Queen will stand before the House of Lords and present the Government’s agenda for the coming year. This is an extremely important event; a chance for the Government to highlight its upcoming priorities and for the opposition parties to take them to task over their proposals and suggest how they would do things differently. With a General Election to be called by June 2010, this is to be the last Queen’s Speech before the election. For this reason I’d like to take a look at the importance of the speech and give some predictions of what to look out for:
Why is the Queen’s Speech important?
I think there are three fundamental reasons that this year’s Queen’s Speech is so critical:
- Policy: In a normal year the Queen’s Speech is important because it sets out the Government’s policy agenda for the coming year and outlines the Bills that will be proposed. As this is an election year the speech is essential as it is one of the Government’s last chances to state publicly and formally their agenda for the coming year and stake a claim to hold onto power come the election. It is also a good opportunity to draw the battle lines with the Conservative Party on key policy issues such as finance, education, crime and health ahead of the General Election. For this reason the opposition parties will be looking to discredit the Government and highlight their own policy priorities
- The Polls: 4 of the last 5 UK polls have put the Conservative Party 14 points ahead of the Labour Government with the Lib Dems trailing 4-10 points behind Labour. Taking the average scores for each party over the last five polls the Conservative Party would have a majority of 58 if these trends were reflected at the next General Election. But just a 2 point drop for the Conservatives and a 2 point rise for the Labour Party would deliver a hung parliament. So for Labour the Queen’s Speech is a chance to showcase a range of policies and hopefully reduce the Conservative Party’s poll lead. For both opposition parties it is a chance to analyse Gordon Brown’s proposals; discredit them and promote their own policies. It is important for the Conservative Party and Lib Dems not to give way significantly to Labour in the polls and it gives the opposition parties a chance to look at some of Labour’s headline policies in detail and criticise them publicly
- Time is running out: With only 70 more sitting days of Parliament until the next election Labour only have three big opportunities to state their case before the election is called: The Queen’s Speech; the Pre-Budget Report and the Budget. Of those three opportunities the Queen’s Speech is most focused on policy direction and prospective bills and sets the policy agenda. Also, it does not have to focus so much on important economic figures such as economic growth and unemployment, which have been sources of distress during the economic downturn. The opposition parties will be keen for the Government not to steal a march in the polls on the back of the Queen’s Speech. They will see it as a small victory if the polls do not radically change on the back of the Queen’s speech as it will mean that Labour are running out of high profile opportunities to change public perception.
What is predicted?
The Speech: It is suggested that Gordon Brown will go for a short sharp Queen’s Speech highlighting headline bills on: fiscal responsibility; social care; energy; policing and crime; health and education. Gordon Brown is clearly gearing these bills up to be the basis for his election manifesto and it is being suggested that the Bills to be proposed are specifically targeted at areas that the Conservatives have opposed, such as targets in the NHS and the DNA database. This is clearly throwing the gauntlet down to the Conservatives Party and defining the political battlegrounds between the two main parties before the election. The Government are looking to take the initiative and outmanoeuvre the Conservative Party in key policy areas.
The Conservative response: The Conservatives are likely to oppose the Speech in two different ways. Firstly, David Cameron will almost certainly criticise Gordon Brown for announcing policies late in the day; not having the time to bring them through before the next General Election and that this is blatant headline chasing, which does not change the fact that Gordon Brown has lost the voters’ trust. Secondly, each Shadow Secretary of State will outline both the principles they disagree with in the Speech and the detail. They will be looking to define their position in opposition to the Government’s proposals. The Conservative Party will face a race against time; they will want to wrest control of the electoral battleground from Labour by defusing any popular Labour announcements made in the Speech and highlighting their counter measures. David Cameron will want to try and focus media attention on Gordon Brown’s weakness and the failings in the Speech rather than allowing the media debate to focus on Brown’s new policy announcements.
The Lib Dem approach: As the third largest party the Lib Dems are in a difficult position. The Leader, Nick Clegg, has come out and called for the Queen’s Speech to be scrapped in favour of an emergency announcement on political reform. Clearly this is not a viable option as the speech is a long-standing tradition, but it has given Nick Clegg front-page media attention before the Speech and gives him a platform from which to discredit the Government’s proposals. For Nick Clegg it is a case of chasing any possible headlines lest the Lib Dems be sidelined in favour of the main battle between the Conservative Party and Labour Government.
These are just predictions of course, so follow Ruder Finn on this blog and on Twitter (@Ruderfinnuk) on Wednesday 18th of November from 11am for our build up and live minute-by-minute analysis of the Queen’s Speech.
Please leave your own predictions or any insights as I would love to have a flavour of any important issues people are focusing on or awaiting from the speech.
Tags: Conservatives, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Government, labour, Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, Parliament, Queen's Speech
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Reports have popped up this morning after the announcement that Downing St is to review its press lobby methods and the rumours are Peter Mandelson may become the second most visible government member behind Gordon Brown, if he wasn’t already, by giving weekly televised press briefings.
Of course, this is tip of the hat to the fact that Brown is not the great communicator that Tony Blair was, but we all knew that. Having Mandy act effectively as Press Secretary, is an extremely clever move.
In place now is the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson (PMOS), Simon Lewis, who previously worked for the Queen as well as the private sector, in particular Vodafone.
But the PMOS’ briefings are daily but don’t necessarily sell Government policy, although naturally it does toe the party line as you would expect. It is more reactive rather than proactive process, fielding questions from the press regarding policies and issues of the day to clarify or confirm, not necessarily sell. The meatier issues are announced at the PM’s monthly press conference or during any ad hoc policy announcements or press conferences.
But from what I’ve read, televised, weekly press conferences would be designed to explain the Government’s messages and policies in the run up to the next election. This will be especially useful to highlight the budget bonanza that I think we can all expect from the Government, especially if the UK is showing growth as has been predicted.
What is missing from the Labour Government at the moment is a clear and effective messenger. The policies are there, but they are being lost in a sea of errors and poor news cycles, the mums.net biscuit farce and the Gordon Brown condolence letter are perfect examples. A messenger is the key.
It is common knowledge that Mandy is one of the smoothest political operators around. Whether you like him or loathe him, that’s a pretty universally view, especially amongst MPs I’ve spoken to. If you watch him against the hardest journalists like Jeremy Paxman or Andrew Marr, he still somehow charms them.
With Mandy helping to sell the message on a weekly basis, this could maybe get Labour back on message.
Cross posted with my personal blog.
Tags: Brown, labour, Mandelson, Marr, Paxman, Press Secretary, Simon Lews
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