Tuesday, 13 October 2015

U Turn If You Want To, Labour IS for Turning

U turn if you want to, the Lady's not for turning. This was Margaret Thatcher's response to appeals from all sides to U turn on economic policy. She didn't, she pushed on with painful but necessary economic reforms and she got Britain back into shape stronger than ever. Ironic that today, on what would have been her 90th birthday, the new Labour leadership has done exactly the opposite. A matter of days ago Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell was saying that he supported the Osborne charter of running a budget surplus in normal times. Today all that changed with Labour's U turn, they will no longer support George Osborne's charter. More accurately Labour leadership won't support it. Labour MPs took to Social media to openly criticise their party leader's stance, Shadow Cabinet member retaliated by giggling down the Radio 4 microphone and the leader himself cold stone silent. When they were last in Government Labour were openly, repeatedly and rightly criticised for not making the most of economic growth by putting money aside for economic downturns. Gordon Brown convinced by his own rhetoric that he had abolished boom and bust went further and sold billions of pounds worth of gold reserves at rock bottom prices. George Osborne's charter aims to correct that. No matter how convinced a future chancellor might be that the good times will never end the law will require them to run a surplus budget. If this had been the case in 2008 the Great Recession would not have been anywhere near as great.

Tonight Labour are ending this email to their members

"In less than 24 hours there will be a vote in Parliament on George Osborne’s “Charter” of cuts.
Make sure your friends and family know what Osborne is up to and why Labour is voting against it."

Labour is telling it's members that it will be voting against repairing the roof while the sun is shining. Have they not learned anything?

Monday, 10 August 2015

Corbyn Won't Run the Country But He Can Ruin It

I’ve seen a few times in social media that a win for Jeremy Corbyn would be of no consequence politically as he’ll never be Prime Minister. I agree to a point that Corbyn as Labour leader would render the Labour Party unelectable to National Government but there’s the rub, unelectable to National Government.
Jeremy Corbyn’s nomination is already having a marked and lasting effect on the Labour leadership campaign. Take Andy Burnham, seen as the front runner at the beginning of the campaign. He was the Labour Secretary of State who championed private sector provision in the NHS, recently admitted the Mansion Tax policy was wrong and oversaw a reduction in public spending when, as Chief Secretary to Treasury, he was responsible for the 2007 comprehensive spending review. There is no doubting his centre left credentials but he’s no Jeremy Corbyn … until now. The whole leadership contest has lurched to the left. Andy Burnham has now reversed his decision on the Welfare Bill and will oppose it, will oppose military action against IS and beats the rail nationalisation drum so loud you’d think he’d replaced the drummer in his favourite band, The Courteeners. With the notable exception of Liz Kendall who to her credit has been consistent throughout, whoever wins the leadership battle will be voted in on a mandate that has lurched to the left. If, as the polls suggest, Jeremy Corbyn wins then this is not good news for the country. Those of a certain age will have first-hand memories of the chaos caused by hard left councils. The hard left’s ability to politicise everything they touch was first evident with the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) in 1983 after Ken Livingston took over the Greater London Council. Originally a force for good Ken Livingston replaced the incumbent moderate labour leader of ILEA with a left wing Union activist and it became a tool for the left to politicise education. Costs, all borne by the London tax payer, spiralled out of control.  Political in-fighting at ILEA marred its last years of existence until, unfit for purpose, it was scrapped. At the height of Conservative power, with landslide majorities David Cameron can only dream about, Militant Labour activists were running Councils. They spent money so profligately that local residents were being forced to pay higher and higher council tax (or domestic rates as it was). Forced to set a fair budget through Central Government enforced rate capping the most militant councils made redundancies, cut services and the local people suffered. The most militant of all, Liverpool City Council, refused to set a legal budget until the very last moment and as a result of their protest were rewarded with £20million of extra public funding. This was against a backdrop of a Labour Leader who did not support them and eventually expelled them from the party. In a Corbyn led Labour party militant led councils will have the leader’s wholehearted support. Measures in parliament to curb the excesses of militant local government will not be as easy to pass with David Cameron’s wafer thin majority. With her commanding majority in the Westminster even Margaret Thatcher struggled. Militant activists who have been swarming back to the Labour party will eventually get into positions of influence on local councils. Even Militant-in-Chief and 1980’s Liverpool Deputy Leader, Derek Hatton, re-joined the Labour Party only days after the General Election to “have a say in the way the party is going”.  This time he and his militant comrades would not be expelled and instead would be actively encouraged by their firebrand leader. While Government complains and the hard left revel in their new found influence it is the normal hardworking people who have the misfortune to live in a militant dominated council that will suffer. This is more relevant now than ever before. I live in Andy Burnham's contituency in Greater Manchester and with George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse going full steam ahead Devo-Manc will soon give control of transport, education, planning and even the NHS to a directly elected mayor. In this Labour dominated County a Corbyn led Labour party could well give us a a hard left leader. We will suffer both in the pocket and in life choices. A hard left council will never support Free Schools, will put every obstacle in their way and strangle them at birth. A hard left council will never support private sector involvement in care for the most vulnerable, stifling expertise and experience so badly needed in local services. A hard left council will never support entrepreneurial young businesses stunting growth and employment prospects for thousands. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have to become Prime Minster to be devastating to the UK so I will not be one of those voting for him to become leader, I’ll play no part in anything that can doom so many to a life of left wing self-destruction.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Why Labour Needs Jeremy

This is Cheddar cheese. Not the cheddar cheese you find in supermarkets around the world. This is real cheddar made in the village of Cheddar matured in a cave in Cheddar Gorge. In other words the rare and genuine article. Compare this to what has been happening to the Labour party over the past couple of decades. Unable to out gun the Conservatives on their own agenda at the 1992 General Election they took on Conservative values and policies. By promising to stick to Conservative spending plans and ditching their commitment to state ownership of industry and after junking raft of other socialist policies they also ditched their principles. By becoming quasi-conservative they attracted voters but  alienated en masse their own party members. In other words they became a metaphorical mass produced cheddar. It worked for a while until the party couldn't remain in denial any longer and returned to their socialist roots with the election of Ed Miliband as their leader. Labour's problem with Ed Miliband wasn't his politics, he was just a very poor leader. He lacked direction, chose the wrong people to run his campaign, made too many false assumptions about the electorate and relied too much on presenting a public image rather than his true self. He must have desperately wanted to be genuine Cheddar but weak in the face of advisers and PR guru's he presented as a poor cheesy copy. Jeremy Corbyn offers the Labour movement the genuine article and he presents his politics honestly, without compromise and true to the party's roots and values. Don't get me wrong I detest pretty much everything Jeremy Corbyn stands for and as Prime Minister would be a disaster for this country. If he is leader in 2020 I would fight with tooth and claw to make sure he never gets hold of the reigns of power. But I do admire him for sticking to his principles, however misguided, and not pretending to be something he isn't. If Labour is to rebuild they need to get back to principles and fight for what they believe in and not what makes them popular.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Coalfield Challenge

There is a myth that some areas are out of bounds to Conservative campaigners. A council estate is assumed to be a Labour stronghold and a leafy suburb assumed to be Conservative. While this is the stereotype it doesn't have to be true.  In ConservativeHome today Mark Wallace hit a nail so squarely on the head it hammered home in a single blow. Go back to the Coalfields. I live in Leigh which was home to two large collieries until 1992 and there were more, lots more, in the outlying areas. I've campaigned in Leigh for the Conservative Party for years (more about that later) and one thing that gets repeated time and time again on the doorstep is how Thatcher closed all the mines. The truth is that there were two mines at the beginning of Margaret Thatcher's tenure and there were still two at the end of it. The picture is of me at Astley Colliery near Leigh. Even here while out canvassing an angry resident yelled at full volume about the 1000's of miners who worked there until Thatcher closed it. The truth, the mine closed in 1970 on the orders of Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. This is an uncomfortable truth for many in Leigh where, to some, voting Labour is part of the DNA but this is no reason to concede defeat. At its lowest point the local vote in the heart of Leigh barely got into double figures. After just a few years of targeted campaigning this has risen to almost 35%. In neighbouring wards the success of hard campaigning is clearer where Conservatives have been successfully elected. The lesson is, it can be done. Mark Wallace's analysis is correct but I've found it takes a special kind of Get Out The Vote in the coalfields. In communities like Leigh it isn't enough to have a campaign of voter ID, GOTV and knock up. There is an added dimension of overcoming the WSIBTAW (Why Should I Bother They Always Win).  There are more Conservatives in these areas than you might imagine but you really have to earn their vote. This cohort has a tipping point which, if past, brings the votes in. This is evident in areas just outside Leigh where the tipping point has been tipped but Leigh's core still has someway to go, but it can be reached.

Monday, 11 May 2015

All UKIP Roads Lead to Nigel

Following the recent resignation and subsequent unresignation of Nigel Farage, UKIP can no longer claim it is not a one person party. It is all about Nigel Farage.
Before the General Election Nigel Farage announced he would stand down as leader of UKIP if he lost South Thanet.  To his partial credit this is what he did very publicly soon after the election result. Even then he left some wriggle room by announcing he may put himself forward as a candidate. This alone was not an honourable course of action no matter how much he tried to exaggerate that part of his speech where he confirmed he was a man of his word. What followed was nothing more than a fudge to reinstall Nigel Farage as leader come what may. The practical reasons for this are clear. Since his announcement that he'll resign as leader the party membership must have been seriously concerned that this would spell the end of their party and Nigel, too, must have realised this very quickly. The news breaking today that the UKIP NEC "did not accept his resignation" shows very clearly that this has been a well rehearsed route to keep Nigel Farage as leader. The claim by the UKIP NEC that there was "overwhelming evidence that members did not want Nigel to go" maybe true but that does not make them relevant. The UKIP constitution (Link to The UKIP Constitution)  has no power to refuse a resignation. Farage has the right to resign and and only he has the right to rescind. Indeed it gives very clear steps on how to hold a leadership contest after a leader resigns. An extract of the relevant piece reads;

7.7          A Party Leader shall communicate his decision to resign in writing to the Party Chairman, who must then summon an emergency meeting of the NEC within 28 days.

7.8          If there is only one valid nomination for the post of Party Leader the candidate so nominated shall be declared elected as Party Leader without the need for a ballot. Any contested election for the leadership shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast. Those eligible to vote shall be members “in good standing” of the Party on the date when the election is called, subject always to the restrictions on voting set out in the final paragraph of Article 4.1.2 above.

7.9          When a vacancy in the leadership occurs due to the Party Leader's death, incapacity, resignation or removal following a vote of no confidence, the procedure for a leadership election shall be initiated by the Party Secretary. 

To repeat, the UKIP constitution gives no power to the UKIP National Executive Committee to refuse a resignation. The decision to carry on as leader is Farage's and his alone. As if in ancient times all UKIP roads lead to Nigel.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Work Hard at School, Then Bail Out the EU

I brought my children up to work hard at school and make something of their life. They did, I'm a very proud Dad. I passed on the same mantra my Edwardian Grandmother passed on to me "If you don't do well at school you'll amount to nothing". Except as time marched on this mantra has become diluted. These days to say such a thing is just a pack of lies. If you did well at school you could go on to get gainful employment and get on in life. If you clowned around, bullied others, were downright disruptive and left school with no qualifications there are a plethora of tax payer funded agencies, benefits and organisations to give you the chance in life you threw away while you were at school. In other words the tax payer pays twice. Being able to get way more than the average wage in benefits makes a tax payer funded life on welfare a lifestyle choice. The tax payer keeps on paying. In this scenario "The tax payer" could be the one who tried hard at school and went straight on to further education and get gainful employment. Slowly this is changing, it ought to be austere on benefits. There needs to be a revived truth in what our forebears drummed into us. As Will Smith once said you need "to be scared of being broke". With the benefits cap, housing benefit reforms and universal credit making work pay this neglected truth is making a comeback, i.e. those who make the decision to buckle down and work hard at school will be far better off than those who choose not to bother and expect bail outs as adults. There are extraordinary parallels with the furore over the EU surcharge. During the economic meltdown, made all the worse in the UK by Labour's Great Recession, the UK buckled down, made the decision to work hard to get ourselves out of the slump. Workers took reduced shifts, shorter hours and exercised pay restraint so the jobs were still there when the recession ended. The Government took tough decisions on public spending, made unpopular choices, even had to go into coalition with the Lib Dems, things were that bad. You can go further back and recall how we opted out of the Euro and opposed fiscal and monetary union opting instead to run our own financial affairs. The result; we are Europe's fastest growing economy, we're not in recession, employment at record levels, unemployment, even youth unemployment, is way down. Our European counterparts failed to take these tough decisions, shunned austerity, shackled together by the Euro. The reward for their fiscal cowardice is to be given a rebate on their EU contributions. The UK has made great sacrifices to get the economy back on track and our reward is to be slapped with a bill for the thick end of 2billion quid. The figure needs to be revised, and revised down to a bill of £0.00. After all, the EU already benefits from the buoyant UK economy. Being in growth we import EU many more goods, the EU can trade with record numbers of new businesses in the UK. Pan-European companies based in the EU rely on their UK branches to prop up their balance sheets, global companies operating in Europe rely on the buoyant UK economy to remain in Europe at all. The short sighted EU commissioners look no further than a cash handout and fail to understand that the UK's mere presence is worth more than the £1.7bn they are convinced they deserve. Will we pay this £1.7bn, as the great lady once said NO, NO, NO.