The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

The Jury Is Still Out

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 20, 2010 @ 07:28

The bromance continues...

Coming from a very Labour family, one that suffered serious hardship under the Thatcher era, being a Lib Dem black sheep is not easy.

Since the rise of the Tories to power, buttressed by a Lib Dem flank that couldn’t wait to get its hands on the tiller, I have been questioned on a regular basis by Labour people on “what d’ya think of that, then?!” – in that sneering way that only Labour people do best.

The problem to me was that most Labour members always assumed the Lib Dems would fall into bed with them in their hour of need. It is this rejection, combined with propping up Teh Evul Tories!!!!1 that has caused them such pain. Sadly for them, just like everything to do with Labour, their party leadership has not reflected their values for more than a decade.

What amuses me most about it is every time a new Tory minister, or David Cameron, says or does something, I am quizzed as if I am guilty of a crime. How dare you put them in power? They’re going to shit on the poor all over again, etc, etc.

I would like to dismiss these concerns as the usual partisan baiting. After all, as I wrote a few days ago, this could be Labour’s best opportunity since the death of John Smith. And yes, it’s callous to write that, but given it led to Tony Blair, three huge election wins and 13 years of power, it has to be true…

But a little bit of me is with them. A little bit of me dies inside when I see William Hague, handsomely rejected in 2001 for being so out of touch with the electorate, preening on the world stage with Hilary Clinton, embarrassing us all by talking about a non-existent “special relationship”.

My approach to the coalition is this. I am not at all apologetic for what my party has done. I share some of the concerns ably expressed by Rob Fenwick and Nich Starling. This coalition is going to put the Liberal Democrats under the most extreme stress. It might well be the end of the party. It might lead to it splitting back in two, especially if a form of PR is ever agreed upon.

But I’m not prepared to turn my back on the party. Not yet. It would have been easy to stick it out in opposition once more. That’s where we’re comfortable. We don’t deserve power, but neither should we refuse to take what may be the only opportunity in our party’s history to implement at least some of our policies because we’re afraid of the bogeymen that still lurk in the Tory cupboards from the Thatcher era.

The alternative? Labour did not want a coalition. The Tories could have governed on their own, but in return we would have extracted almost nothing, and worse, faced another election in a year’s time, when Labour are likely to be unprepared for an election, and a Tory landslide could ensue.

Don’t tell me that wouldn’t be worse for the country.

So when people ask me what I think of what’s happening in British politics, and whether I’m comfortable with what’s happening, I simply say: “I really don’t know yet”.

And none of us do. It’s way, way too early to guess what the outcome of this coalition will be. Nothing has really happened yet. When legislation starts, and we truly get a handle on the way Tory and LD Secretaries of State are going to govern, that’s when the evidence will roll in. Until then, we lie in wait like wolves. Waiting. Interminably waiting.

I freely admit though. If it’s a disaster, I will live forever with the shame.

But a part of me thinks it genuinely can work.

And that’s worth fighting for.


Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Time For A Reshuffle, Harriet

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 19, 2010 @ 11:41

The Next British Prime Minister

With the number of contenders for the Labour leadership about to reach four (if John McDonnell can get the signatures) it may well be a good moment for Labour to take a leaf out of Michael Howard’s book.

Bizarre as that may sound, he did have one good idea. In the aftermath of his election defeat in May 2005, he took it on the chin and stood down. Though not straight away. He decided to give the Conservative Party all the time it needed to really think about what the future of the party should be.

Eventually, David Cameron was elected Tory leader in December 2005. A whole seven month interregnum, despite Howard still getting very badly beaten (in majority terms) in the election.

Yesterday, Labour announced they were also going to take their time. It sort of makes sense, because Labour haven’t had a period of introspection for a long while. They are taking a risk in the sense that the coalition might suddenly collapse with Labour rudderless, but it’s worth it.

But what Harriet needs to do is showcase the Labour “talent”. As Anne Robinson says, “ditch the deadwood!”. Get rid of Alan Johnson and give it to Ed Miliband. Put Ed Balls in as Shadow Chancellor. Even John McDonnell should be asked if he wants a portfolio if he gets the necessary nominations. He’ll probably refuse, but he deserves a platform too.

The goal has to be to give due prominence to those who hope to lead the party. Get them right in the limelight. Give them a chance to shine and show the country what they’re made of. It will give Labour members and affiliated trade unionists the opportunity to see a few months of real experience under pressure.

Even better, the associated free publicity for the Labour Party will be plain for all to see. The broadcasters and journalists will give extra prominence to every appearance of Ed, Ed, David and John (and anyone else for that matter) because they know they could be looking at the next Labour Party leader. And if they play their cards right, the next Prime Minister…

So don’t miss this opportunity, Harriet. The media loves a good story. A well-timed reshuffle will get some good publicity. And then, once the right faces are in the right places, it could continue to reap dividends…

UPDATE – 16:30 – and since Andy Burnham is also going to throw his hat into the ring, let’s make it five. At least it’s going to be a proper contest. No women though?

UPDATE 2 – 20/5 – 10:05 – I guess Diane Abbott read my comment above. A Labour leader, perhaps? How fantastic would that be.

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Labour’s Opportunity

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 17, 2010 @ 10:38

Maybe the real wave of change hasn't hit us yet...

What is so fascinating about the current “new politics” of coalition government is the fact that, for the first time in decades, there is truly only one opposition party.

For the next five years – if that is to be the way things proceed – the Lib/Con coalition will be tarred with the same brush. I was hoping to avoid the marriage metaphor, because it’s so horribly clichéd, but this fact is simple: nothing expresses the way the two party’s fortunes will play out than the following phrase.

For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer.

If the Lib/Con coalition works, and there are a couple of turbulent years followed by definite steps towards a transformed economy and budget outlook, both parties will get their reward.

But if they don’t, and Labour pick the right leader, the possibilities are almost limitless.

Imagine, if in a year’s time, the Coalition’s emergency budget, combined with continuing European turmoil, causes unemployment to skyrocket. 3.5m? 4m? VAT has been increased to 20%, and there is talk of another round of serious public spending cuts to stop the rot.

Meanwhile, Labour are leading the charge, unhindered by a second opposition party, solely the ones able to reflect a growing anger within the British public that the coalition is not delivering. Ed Miliband, accompanied at every turn by Jon Cruddas, leading an ever more populist campaign against the ConDem cuts that have, once again, led to a mantra that unemployment is a price worth paying for keeping inflation down.

In those circumstances, the public would quickly tire of exhortations from Gideon Osborne that we need to sacrifice more to put the Great back into Britain. Tolerance of him is already wafer-thin; for now he will get a fair crack of the whip, but if his initial efforts don’t succeed, Labour will be able to say that the same old Tories just don’t care what their pathological and ideological love for shrinking the public sector does to the people of this country.

And worse, the Lib Dems will have guilt by association. They cannot just step out of this arrangement when it suits them. That would be so Lib Demmy, after all. Indeed, with David Laws in the Treasury, who is somewhat hawkish about the economy anyway, there will be no place to hide.

As a Lib Dem member, I recognise that this coalition was probably our only option when it became clear that Labour were ready to go into opposition. But I am truly fearful for the future of our party. There will be a generation of Labour voters that we will never rescue. Labour sympathisers in Generation X, who lived through the worst of Thatcherism, will never vote for us again. That is already a win for Labour.

But they will also be able to cash in on every generation after that and beyond if this Lib/Con thing doesn’t work out.

Maybe that progressive realignment of the centre-left so dreamed about for decades by the Liberal Democrats is going to happen after all.

Without them.

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Miliband, Miliband Or Other?

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 15, 2010 @ 11:16

Just to show how different they are, they even un-coordinated their ties...

It is pleasing to see that later on today Ed Miliband will join the Labour leadership race. I’m pleased not just because it means we’ll actually have a contest to look forward to, but also because it means my prediction on January 1 that he will be the next Labour leader might well come to pass…

Of the Milibands, I have never been impressed by David. I have never understood what made him the “favourite” in the first place. I wrote about this last year. He is policy light, idea-free, but worst of all is not exactly fluent in front of the cameras. In the new age of TV debates, I don’t think his empty personality will come across all too well in this arena.

There was a chink of light earlier this year, however, and I slightly reconsidered my view of him. Maybe within that tired Blairite façade there is a real political thinker waiting to burst out. Oh, if only we could have a leader of a party that actually believed in a philosophy. The Milibands are, after all, steeped in a Marxist heritage. Not that that will happen, but maybe there might just be a little more democratic socialism, or failing that social democracy, under the skin than we think.

No. I’m dreaming. Of course not.

But of the two Milibands, the younger brother Ed has always been slightly more interesting. He is better on camera, without a doubt. He doesn’t have the same degree of uber geekery that David has. He looks, well, a bit more human.

Ed has always been associated with the Brown faction of the Labour Party, while David has always been seen to be a Blairite. Bear in mind that there is barely a cigarette paper between the Brown and the Blairite faction of the Labour Party. It is just a tribal thing. People like to feel like they belong to something more than just a party. The miniscule differences in emphasis between the factions are exaggerated to an enormous degree in order to pretend that you can only be one or the other. Boys, eh.

This distinction is important, though, as it will greatly influence where support is going to come from. It’s already obvious that David has the backing of a lot of MPs. Ed may pick up some Brownite rump, but if Ed Balls also stands then Ed Miliband (too many Eds – Ed.) has lost this third of the electoral college quite convincingly.

Same too of the unions. Ed Balls, if he stands, will get the full backing of them. Why that would be I don’t know. Labour, despite its pretence of meritocracy, is a real big fan of nepotism. The unions have always preferred Brown to Blair, but since Ed Balls and Brown went hand in hand, he will receive the union’s blessing, rather than Ed Miliband. Fortunately, each union member is balloted individually, so this may not be quite so important. It will, however, if it comes to the issue of how much finance each campaign gets to push its message out.

That only leaves the members. And if the members get a genuine look at the candidates, I think Ed Miliband has a chance of winning this third. John Cruddas, if he stands, will fare equally well, but there is just a chance that John Cruddas will stand aside for another candidate, and give them his blessing in return for a cushy Shadow Cabinet post. Could Ed Miliband persuade him? I think he could.

Either way, we’re in for a lot of novelty value of seeing two brothers locked in a deadly political battle. Both of them are still young enough that if both, or either, lose, they will get another chance, but by then there will be a new generation of young pretenders. This may be their one shot.

While only one of them has a chance of doing a good job as the Labour Party leader – Ed Miliband – the other might just be the candidate that makes the Labour Party even more distant from the electorate than ever. Aloof, brainy, nerdy. That’s not how you get noticed in the new media age, I’m afraid.

Fun times ahead!

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Which Way To Turn?

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 11, 2010 @ 11:07

Executive summary: In a move that would shock most of the people who know me, I have no choice but to back the LDs into a coalition with the Tories. No other option is tenable, and coalition is the best way to achieve LD policies. Full thinking follows…

The incredible developments of yesterday have combined to produce a truly astonishing moment in British politics. The right went into synthetic rage when they realised that Nick Clegg had the sheer audicity of negotiating with another party. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown noticed the rather large writing on the wall that had been there since October 2007, and offered to fall on his sword.

Elsewhere, Nick Clegg got caught in a classic bind. Which way does he go?

I had been speculating for a while that something was amiss. It was clear that Mandy et al were telling the Lib Dems in secret backchannels that Brown would depart to smooth any transition. The LDs were clearly listening, but wanted to show the Conservatives the courtesy of concluding their negotiations first. That the Tories should be “shocked” that a horse-trade was soon to follow either shows their stunning naivety or breathtaking arrogance.

Either way, I’m certain the LDs and the Tories thought they’d finished the negotations yesterday. David Laws and his negotiating team were ready to get the deal approved by his fellow MPs, and then it was to be concluded in the Federal Executive later that day. The tenor of the coverage was that the deal was inevitable.

Instead, David Laws comes out and claims he has been asked to seek “clarification”. You bet he was. There was obviously some concern amongst the parliamentary party that the deal – for confidence and supply – was imprecise. They must also have realised that it was time to talk to Labour, and see what extra they could get from the Tories. That’s what negotiation is all about.

The path was then clear for Gordon to go public, and the dual talks to begin. jumped the shark. I’ve never seen such vitriol, and such panic. All of a sudden, the Tories’ ascent to power was in jeopardy.

Open negotiations will now begin with both sides. That is right, and it is fair.

But the stakes are now extremely high.

It’s clear that Gordon Brown knows only a coalition will do. He said so yesterday. And the Tories have made their so-called “final” offer (I’ll bet you it’s not) – but the price will be a formal coalition, embracing the LDs so tight that their blood supply will be in serious jeopardy.

None of this was on the table a couple of days ago. The LDs were going to let a minority Tory administration form, and in return get some policies through. Politically, that was the right option. It would allow the LDs to survive. But in terms of delivering policies, it wasn’t.

The LDs now have the unenviable choice. Not supporting either party is no longer an option. It would be seen as extremely weak and indecisive after spending so long negotiating with them. It would also allow people to claim that this is somehow a disaster of PR (even though it’s under FPTP) because apparently negotiating and taking a little time over a new government is a failure.

The real killer, though, is that when faced with the chance of power, the LDs refused it. Then we’d get a run down of the old classics like: “You don’t know what you stand for!” and “What is the point of the Liberal Democrats?”

There are now just two options. A coalition with Labour, or a coalition with the Conservatives?

In terms of policy, there is only one answer. Labour. They will clearly be able to offer way more of the Lib Dem agenda because their situation is more desperate. They want to cling to power and will do anything to achieve it. A coalition with Labour may be the only chance ever the Liberal Democrats will get to push for the Single Transferable Vote and all manner of other reforms that the Tories could never support.

But realistically, a coalition with Labour would be a disaster. The waning power of the papers means that we could safely ignore their rancid rubbish. But it would nevertheless create days of hysteria about the “undemocratic” outcome of a coalition between two parties with more than a majority of support across all of the UK, including England. That’s not a problem.

The real issue is the fact that Labour cannot deliver their promises. A new leader could not be trusted. Neither could the rainbow of others. The fractious Labour Party is split a multitude of ways on the reform options. The party is ill-disciplined. It will not survive more than a year. Perhaps it doesn’t need to if STV is delivered quickly.

But it’s just not tenable. Another new PM with no election?

I don’t buy it. Not in this age with the presidentialisation of politics.

The Liberal Democrats have no choice but to form a coalition with the Conservatives. The reaction from the left of the party – a faction in which I count myself – will be tough to bear. But the LDs have negotiated so well that there is enough of our agenda in play. We can try to reassure Labour voters, through, hopefully, our record in office, that it was the right thing for the country, as it will tame the worst excesses of the Tory government we could so very nearly have had.

If it can survive in office for at least two years, it will allow the electorate time to reflect more on us with the benefit of hindsight. Perhaps we won’t be punished so harshly then.

This has to be wrapped up today. Though it is sensible to negotiate with all sides, we have done what we needed to, and that was force the Tories to up their game. Now we’ve done that, it’s time to look decisive, accept the new position, and avoid poisoning what is going to be our crucial relationship with the Tories before the government has even got underway.

This turned into an essay, but it’s because there are so many points to consider. It’s the most difficult decision the LDs will probably ever make. But in reality now, there can only be one outcome.

Good work, Nick. But don’t mess it up.

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

The Course Of Coalition Love Never Does Run Smooth

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 7, 2010 @ 16:15

Could a coalition actually happen after all? Both Lib Dems and Tories will be distinctly uneasy about it. How much will they trust their leaders that they’re doing the right thing?

But if the negotiations begin, they will be extraordinarily delicate. I observed them at a close distance in 2007, in the aftermath of the Welsh Assembly election. It was extremely cloak and dagger. Everyone had their own agendas. It takes a truly intelligent person to draw up a document that pleases all the parties. And yes, there was much partisan bickering. It’s only natural. We’re party animals.

Here is the interesting part though.

The Tories and Plaid Cymru got very excited when they realised that they, plus the LDs, could topple Labour from power.

There was much frantic rushing around. Radio silence began, including between MPs and their own staff. We couldn’t be trusted not to leak or damage the negotiations.

Then there was the drafts. The endless drafts of the All Wales Accord. Top secret. Invariably left in places where they could be found.

But in the end, it was all a merry dance.

A merry dance led by Plaid Cymru.

They knew that once they had the coalition agreement in place, it was the perfect bargaining chip.

They turned their back on the agreement they’d signed, and went to Labour with an ultimatum.

Work with us, or you’re finished. And possibly for a very long time.

It worked. Labour gave them everything they wanted. Plaid were very happy. Power at long last.

Of course, it hasn’t worked out too well for Plaid, but the moral of the tale is obvious.

Coalition negotiations are incredibly long, incredibly boring, and incredibly complex. Nudges and winks here and there mean everything. It could all actually be a ruse, a careful scheme by Nick Clegg to see if Labour can trump the offer.

There’s a lot still to play for here, even though all the voting is over.

And that’s what makes this so fascinating.

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Pollwatch: T-Minus 2 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 4, 2010 @ 22:39


LIB DEMS: 28% (-1%)

LABOUR: 28% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=29). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

This election has been like a rollercoaster. One day up, one day down.

The problem is that rollercoasters are under the influence of gravity. And, in the end, it returns to the Earth.

Just like the Lib Dems. Tonight’s polls continue to show their steady decline back to the norm. Bear in mind that good old Charles Kennedy notched up some 23% in very favourable circumstances last time. Now that expectations have been raised immeasurably, anything in this region would be very disappointing for Nick Clegg.

So what are we to make of tonight’s YouGov putting them on 24%. It feels like an outlier. We might find out tomorrow. But what if it’s not? Oh, I can’t take the stress any more.

This is what makes this election so cruel to us poor downtrodden Lib Dems. We thought we might be in with a shot. The polls were even mean enough to confirm our gut feeling that something special had happened on the night of that first debate.

And then it gets snatched away from us.

I’m trying to stay positive though, especially as it would be fickle of me to change my mind again after my post yesterday, in which I tried to cheer myself up.

The election, however, is even more wide open than before. If YouGov is right, and Labour get 30%, that will definitely be enough to ensure a hung parliament. I’m confident of that, because it will mean Labour don’t lose too many Lab-Con marginals; and if the LDs outperform their rating in the LD-Con marginals, it will make for one hell of scrap for power on May 7th.

The final polls tomorrow will be the ones to watch out for. Will there be the usual convergence? Even if there is, will it even mean anything, because 1% here and there when the polls are this tight, and in our electoral system, can be the difference between hung parliament and majority?

I love elections.

There will be no Pollwatch instalment at this time tomorrow, as it will be shifted forward into Thursday instead to make sure I don’t miss any of them being released on Wednesday night.

Be lucky.

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Labour’s Death Throes

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 4, 2010 @ 10:11

Unless they can't win. In fact, just don't vote for them at all.

This story is actually incredible.

To me it shows a few things.

First, Labour is admitting defeat. It is clearly a sign that Labour know they cannot possibly win a majority, and that in order to leave them in with a chance of staying in power, they need to ensure that the road ahead for the Conservatives is as bumpy as possible.

In some ways, though, Labour are only telling people to take the sensible option given our voting system. Take a LD-Con marginal like Eastleigh. It makes no sense for Labour voters to vote Labour there if their most hated candidate in the race is the Conservative. They could vote Lib Dem and at least make sure the Tory loses.

Nevertheless, no major party has ever been explicit that this is what the electorate should do. Usually it’s all about “getting the maximum vote for our party”. Changing the record now with just two days to go is a sign of desperation, no doubt about it.

The second point is that it is the biggest admission by the Lab-Con axis that the electoral system is totally flawed. By acknowledging the fact that millions of people across the country are going to be casting “wasted votes” unless they vote tactically, it is a potentially significant development. How can Labour, including Peter “Back Door” Hain, possibly get away with not supporting electoral reform after this revelation?

Finally, it is the clearest sign yet that Labour are prepared to work with Liberal Democrats on constitutional reform. After all, Labour have been the biggest tinkerers of the constitution in generations. They’re not averse to the option, and if it’s all they have to do to keep power…

Though it’s all coded, and all very subtle, it’s becoming very apparent that Labour both know they won’t win outright, and know their only hope is of a coalition or other deal which supports Lib Dem policies in return for a Lib Dem backing of a Labour Queen’s Speech.

In advance of the election, the Lib Dems are right to reject Labour’s advances. It is not good to admit at any point that you are weak and in danger of being propped up. Especially for the Lib Dems, where even if they don’t secure many more seats, a large number of votes will make the case for reform of its own accord.

That Labour would enter into such a strange game, one that damages its own message of how the Lib Dems cannot be trusted because of their inexperience, speaks volumes as to how worried they must be in the Bunker.

Now is the time for Lib Dems to strike a blow against Labour. There will never be another chance for the Labour Party to be replaced as the true party of the centre-left, of the progressive axis in British politics.

Labour is weakened. Labour is dying.

But can the Lib Dems take advantage, in spite of the electoral mountain that faces them?

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pollwatch: T-Minus 3 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 3, 2010 @ 23:59


LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 28% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=31). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

Still, very little change. Tonight’s polls suggest the Lib Dem bounce has indeed run its course though, with two of them putting the LDs back in third place, and ComRes have a tie. That might be reflected in the coming days calculations. But stranger things have happened. Every time it seems someone is pulling away, the following days polls bring it back again.

But I’m going back out on a limb.

This election only has two questions for us now:

Are the Tories going to get a majority?

Will the Lib Dems pip Labour to second place?

I suspect yes and no, respectively. I have that depressing, sinking feeling.

Same as it ever was.

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pollwatch: T-Minus 4 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 2, 2010 @ 23:59


LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 28% (+1%)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=29). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

Hang on a minute. I thought Labour were finished after “bigotgate”?

Apparently not. At least, no one seems to have told the Labour voters to desert the sinking ship.

Instead, the polls have been remarkably solid. The good news appears to be that the ComRes poll which showed the Tories with a 10 point lead has not been backed up by other pollsters. Poor old ComRes haven’t had much luck with the sampling lately.

But the degree of similarity lately is remarkable. They’re all either going to be pretty much on the money, or all massively wrong.

My money is still on the former.

Right now, our poll medians are following the YouGov numbers very closely. That’s probably because the sample pool is littered with nearly half the surveys coming from the firm. With a bit of luck we might see some more variety in the coming days. If not, I’m going to look at the medians without YouGov to see what difference it makes.

Having said that, I think these numbers are very close to being right, though I think they may be a little generous to both Labour and the LDs. My guess at this stage would be a Tory figure of 35%, with Labour and LD both one lower than above, and the other spare 1% going to others. Because I still don’t think Others are going any lower than 10%.

There is still one other issue… whether the pollsters will converge in the closing days. Some have observed in the past that this is a common feature. Either they start losing their nerve about how right they are, and start to tweak the methodology a little, or suddenly people’s minds become set, and the pollsters begin to keep hitting the same blend every time.

Maybe it’s a bit of both.

Not long to find out though. Isn’t it exciting?

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »