Archive for May 2008

Don’t Wait Dave, Go For The Kill

May 23, 2008

I’m sure there will be a lot of comment over what David Cameron and the Conservative party should do over Gordon Brown and his position as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party. There’s a strong opinion that he should ‘ease off’ on Brown because he is their best asset to win the next election.

I disagree with that.

The point of Opposition is to do just that. If there is something wrong, something that they disagree with, then they are meant to oppose it – this is their function in Parliamentary democracy. To challenge, to question and to oppose. Gordon Brown is not an effective Prime Minisiter, therefore it is their duty to continue to pressure him, and to do their bit for the country.

There’s alos the fact that this opportunity may not arise again (after all, the chance for Brown to call and iwn an election has never arisen again either) and they must not show weakness. I want to see decisive action on the part of Cameron, Osbourne, Salmond, Clegg and the other party leaders. The confidence to just go for it is one of the things that made Vince Cable the best leader the Liberal Democrats never had. Yes make sure of your ground, make sure you have the troops behind you (ahem, Wendy) but when the time is right, strike hard and fast.

If the Conservatives chicken out of taking the battle to Brown, then the may come to regret it as much as Brown’s non-election decision.

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It’s All Going To Be In The Timing

May 23, 2008

When is the correct time to fire someone from a role? The generally accepted rule of thumb is “as soon as you have decided that they must go.” This question could well be on the minds of close to two hundred MPs as they try to grapple with the question of the leadership.

This is the simple maxim that Labour has to operate on. Make the decision, loud and clear, as a group. Stick with Brown, or stick the knife in Brown. But whatever they do, they have to make a positive decision quickly, and stick with the course of action. All the silly little notes of this showing indecision he who yields the knife never wins, and so on, miss one important fact.

Right now, Labour isn’t working.

And yes, I’m deliberatly aping the slogan, but it’s true. There is no trust in the party, and it stems in having no trust in the leadership of the party. Core values have been betrayed. Doubling income tax on the poorest workers? Is that really the Labour party? And will people who think that Labour is still the party of the worker listen to them on tax and spend at the General Election?

As I see it, the party should be looking at the three potential outcomes. The first is do nothing, and risk getting wiped out so disasterously that the Conservatives will have a three term run in Parliament. If they stay with Brown then this is very likely. A second outcome, which a new leader should regard as a success, is to limit losses and hand the Conservatives a Parliament with a very small majority (say 20-30 MPs) that would allow the Labour party to fight for a swift return after one term on the opposition benches.

There’s even a slim chance that a new leader could invigorate the party enough that the third outcome, a hung parliament, would be on the cards – and to be honest after the mess of Scotland under previous administrations, having the parties in the SNP minority administration working together on separate issues on a case by case basis I’d be more than happy to see that happen in Westminster.

To be effective, whoever leads the Labour party at the end of the party conference should be the one to take them to the ballot box in 2009 or 2010, and do whatever he (or she.., let’s be fair) can do to get to the most favourable outcome possible.

Labour’s Premature Ejec-elections

May 22, 2008

Whatever the result of the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, it’s fair to say that we’ve seen Labour use one of their ‘big weapons’ early, namely the attacks on class and attempting to use this to say “Labour good, Conservative bad.” And it’s also fair to say that the order to do so if not originating from the leader of the Labour party, was at a very minimum endorsed by Gordon Brown.

Something that could (with a good wind) have proved useful in the upcoming General Election and wrong foot the Opposition.

And in case you missed it at the weekend, Scotland on Sunday is reporting that the call for a referendum on Scotland’s place in the world by Wendy Alexander jumped the gun, and meant that the Labour party’s plan to run the referendum themselves from Westminster, controling the question, the timing and of course any extra little tweaks (such as, I don’t know, 50% of the electorate need to agree, not just 50% of the votes) couldn’t go ahead. So no chance of wrong footing the SNP

Gordon and Wendy

Part of me thinks this might be a bit of revisionism on the part of Labour Spin Doctors to prop by Brown at all costs, because it would mean that Brown would have lied to Parliament when he was asked if there were any plans to hold one.

So left hand has some plans on what to do, the right hand goes and decides to use them early, and they fizzle. What great planning, what great foresight, what great communication.

Look out, Gordon, there’s an Elephant in the room

May 22, 2008

I don’t think I was the only person watching Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday that knew exactly where David Cameron was leading with his “why aren’t you visiting Crewe and Nantwich” question to Gordon Brown. And there must have been a little part of him chuckling as Brown walked straight into it, with his “traditions” answer that allowed the Blair sucker punch.

Come on! This was even more obvious than a coyote pouring out a pile of “Free Bird Seed” under the Acme Road Runner Descending Cage (Patent applied for).

I can’t believe Brown didn’t see this coming. I can’t believe whoever was preparing the briefs for PMQ’s didn’t know that this was a potential line of attack and have something ready for use to at least make Cameron work to get his line out. Even a simple “unlike my predecessor I fully believe in the tradition of Prime Ministers not attending, much as the part opposite did when in power: (and then lead onto an attack on something they did in their 1979 manifesto.

A leader is also someone you can look to in times of crisis. Witness a certain Alex Fergusson after being knocked out of European and UEFA football in 2005, returning last night to a nervy, edge, very close victory. That’s a leader you could get behind and trust to make the call. Brown can’t even see a trapdoor, let alone avoid one. That’s why I don’t think he’s the man to lead the party, the Parliament, or the country.

“You’ve Got The Wrong MPs” Fiasco of 2007 Scottish Election Continues

May 18, 2008

Elections watchdog Ron Gould revealed he is “not comfortable” with the view that all 129 MSPs elected last year actually received more votes than their opponents, reports the Scotland on Sunday.

The root of his opinion is one of simple mathematics. The number of constituency MPs in the Scottish Parliament who were elected with majorities that were less than the number of spoiled ballot papers could draw into question whether those MSPs should be there at all, Cunningham North, majority 49, spoils 1015; Edinburgh East, majority 1382, spoiled 2521 being the two leading ‘close’ results, but they are not alone. While it is right that there is no call to run the Election again, indeed all parties accepted the result, there should be no brushing the disgrace of that night under the carpet.

For make no mistake, the organisation of the elections on the night was terrible as well. ORG, the UK’s online rights group, had a number of election monitors in place in every count room on that night, due in part to it being the first major UK election with online voting. Their report is still shocking reading, and everyone involved in politics in any level should shudder at just how easily the last seat declared could have been declared incorrectly.

These were the top up seats from the Highlands and Islands region. As the Presiding Officer went to the stage to announce four Labour top-up seats and no SNP seats, a member of the SNP had to stop him while he was on the way to the stage to query the result. The SNP calculations had Labour on three top up seats and the SNP on two; which would give the Parliamentary majority to the SNP, and not to Labour, which would have been the case on the 4/0 count.

“But the computer gave us the numbers, we ran them many times,” is the summary of the reason that was given. Only under protest as the electronic trail followed back. The reason the SNP had been awarded no seats? Because the ballot numbers were on a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet, and the operator hadn’t scrolled the page horizontally to read the SNP numbers…

On such calls are elections won and lost, and I’m with Gould on his recommendations. We should start from a simple assumption that electronic counting can and will go wrong, and demand a statistically significant sample of the ballot papers be counted by hand to give confidence in the declared result.

And a mandatory manual recount of any result where the spoiled papers outnumber the majority should also be a requirement.

Tories to the Left, SNP to the Right… Labour Stuck in the Middle

May 18, 2008

Look I know it’s not accurate, I know it doesn’t go down to the constituency level, and that it’s not as simple as this… but still, is this the trend that we’ll be looking at in terms of seats and voting at the next General Election?

Speculative and Rough

In very broad strokes, the Labour vote and the Labour geography is going to get squeezed. The Lib Dems are going to solidify in the South West, with a few gains around the country, and Labour will be lucky to retian a strong ‘core’ vote in the midlands and the north of England.

On the opinion polls out in today’s Sunday papers, Labour are looking at almost no representation in the South East outside of the capital. How far the ‘border’ of the Conservative gains will climb up the country is going to determine the majority of the next Parliament. Perhaps we just need Jeremy Vine and a climbing Line in the studio to show us what we need to know?

And then there’s Scotland. You might as well throw away the electoral seat calculators that are in use at the moment, because I don’t think they’ve taken into account the sea change that the Scottish Parliament has had on the voters. The SNP are on the rise, Alex Salmond reckons 20 seats for the SNP is a good target for the next General Election (so obviously not all of Scotland is turning SNP yellow…), and given the general distaste of Labour, even before the fun of the WendyRendum, it’s going to be a fight for the party to retain their strength in the central belt.

What If… There Was No News?

May 15, 2008

With thanks to Boing Boing for the discovery. The music is Ben Frost’s Theory of Machines.