Archive for the 'Budget' Category


Copeland and Stoke Central – the final push

Monday, February 20th, 2017

A round up of some of the literature

Just 3 days left with so much hanging in the balance

Although it’s not unusual for more than one Westminster by-election to be held on the same day I cannot recall an occasion similar to that which we will see on Thursday when the main opposition party is struggling to hang on to two seats.

Whatever the outcomes Copeland and Stoke Central will have a huge impact on domestic politics.

If LAB loses one or even both that will put renewed pressure on Corbyn. The polls have been awful and the by-elections will reinforce that in a huge way.

For UKIP Stoke Central is massive test for both the party and its new leader. The whole point of Paul Nuttall, we were told, was that he would be in a position to take UKIP’s fight into Labour heartlands particularly those where LEAVE did very well on June 23rd last year. Stoke appears to fit the bill entirely. For a large period of the campaign the betting has had Nuttall as odds-on favourite and to come away from the fight with nothing would be a major blow. If he fails could that create leadership issues once again.

For the Tories Copeland offers an extraordinary opportunity to take a seat from Labour while they are in government. The party is obviously feeling confident or else Theresa May would have kept well away. Throughout the betting has had CON as a tight odds-on favourite.

Finally the rejuvenated traditional by-election kings, the LDs, have got to come out of Thursday with something to maintain the fightback narrative. Winning either looks a massive challenge but a big increase in vote should suffice.

Mike Smithson


Theresa May’s big speech – a round up of reaction

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017


Cameron’s first policy resignation: IDS quits

Friday, March 18th, 2016


But it’s Osborne in the firing line

There are two easy assumptions that need dismissing about IDS’s resignation yesterday. Firstly, this is not a power gambit on Duncan Smith’s part; and secondly, his going is not to do with Europe.

The two in fact tie together. There could be – and perhaps already is – an explanation that runs thus: IDS has really quit because he is upset by how the Remain side is conducting the European debate; in leaving he is free to directly criticise the prime minister for his at best difficult-to-substantiate assertions; by taking dramatic action he places himself at the forefront of the campaign and, should Leave win, at the front of the race to be next Tory leader.

The problem with that interpretation is that it doesn’t fit the facts. If IDS had wanted to do maximum damage to Cameron and Osborne – and, by extension, to Remain – he would have quit on Budget Day itself, or in fact just about any time other than a Friday evening when MPs are away from Westminster and newspapers have least time to react for tomorrow (albeit that the Sundays get a good run).

Similarly, if it was about Europe then he would have said so. The two letters that stand out by their omission from Duncan Smith’s resignation letter are ‘EU’. No doubt he will feel freer to criticise Remain’s ‘project fear’ tactics now, but that will be very much a secondary consequence. If he had quit over Europe (or as a power play) then it would have been the PM in his sights. 

But it’s not. Instead, it’s George Osborne who takes the full force of Duncan Smith’s ire; Osborne’s political gaming, his rushed Budget preparations, his short-termist approach and his willingness to risk effectiveness tomorrow for acclaim today. Also – one assumes – because Osborne tried to arrange it so that IDS would take the flak for the chancellor’s decisions.

It is easy to over analyse this resignation, particularly for those fond of seeing politics in terms of personalities scrabbling up the greasy pole. IDS has been there, done that and it turned out badly; he cannot have any ambition left on that score. No, for all the criticisms of Duncan Smith over the years, one that cannot be reasonably levelled at him is deceitfulness; he has always been plain about where he stands. There is no reason to believe any different now.

Nor do I believe those who claim that he jumped before he would be pushed post-referendum. While there may well be a reshuffle after the referendum, unless Remain wins by a country mile then the PM is unlikely to want to risk further antagonising the Eurosceptic wing of his party by offering up martyrs who’d been doing a decent job. Such talk also misses the point that no sensible leader ever lets on about a reshuffle before it happens: rumours are just that.

But a reshuffle there will now have to be and one that Cameron hadn’t planned. If he is thinking about another change after the referendum then he’d need to keep this weekend’s as pared down as possible (indeed, if there is a sizable move-around in the next few days, that pretty much rules out a planned reshuffle this year).

The audacious move would be to offer the job to Boris. Some might argue that it’d be slotting a round peg into a complex polygonal hole. Perhaps. But it would avoid knock-on effects while simultaneously bringing a degree of control over Boris.

More likely is a promotion from a Minister of State and there, Priti Patel is the obvious candidate being already within the department. Holders of HenryG’s 50/1 tip of her as the next Conservative leader from back in 2011 would no doubt welcome the appointment.

Heading the other way on the scales of fate is the chancellor. Duncan Smith’s letter is deeply damaging to him because it lays bare an unfair and excessively calculating approach to politics that is unattractive to public and politicians alike. After several months when he’s underperformed in his jobs, there’ll be few who’d go out on a limb to offer him unconditional support. The question is whether Cameron will be one of those few. He has been very loyal to his colleagues in the past but it is possible to be loyal to a fault.

David Herdson


LAB in lead for first time since last May as the Tories pay the price for being split

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Cameron LHbosis narrow 268 x 400

YouGov post budget
LAB 34
CON 33
LD 6


The first post budget electoral tests: Three CON Local By-Election defences

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Aylsham (Con defence) on Broadland
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 43, Liberal Democrats 4 (Conservative majority of 39)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,588, 1,513, 1,125 (32%)
Liberal Democrats 1,521, 1,065, 926 (31%)
Labour 1,082 (22%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 719, 658 (15%)
Candidates duly nominated: Christopher Jenner (Lab), Steve Riley (Lib Dem), Hal Turkmen (Con)

Ashby de la Launde and Cranwell (Con defence) on North Kesteven
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 28, Lincolnshire Independents 8, Independents 4, Non Party Independents 2, Hykeham Independents 1 (Conservative majority of 13)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,789, 1,504 (67%)
Independent 871 (33%)
Candidates duly nominated: Steve Clegg (Lincolnshire Independent), Luke Mitchell (Con), Claire Newton (Lib Dem)

Hutton (Con defence) on Redcar and Cleveland
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 29, Liberal Democrats 11, Conservatives 10, Independents 8, United Kingdom Independence Party 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 1)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,997, 1,963, 1,792 (54%)
Labour 1,071, 950, 856 (29%)
Liberal Democrat 643 (17%)
Candidates duly nominated: Caroline Jackson (Con), Graeme Kidd (Lib Dem), Harry Lilleker (UKIP), Ian Taylor (Lab), George Tinsley (Ind)

There are seven words that no local by-election candidate representing the government wishes to hear during the planning of a campaign “Budget Day is the day before polling” as it means that no matter what you do, your fate has been sealed within moments of the Chancellor sitting down and over the past nine years several Chancellors have managed to “put their foot in it” without even setting foot on the campaign trail. Here are some of the bigger upsets that have happened post Budget

Sutton in Ashfield North on Nottinghamshire (2007)
Lib Dem 1,979 (73% +59%), Lab 435 (16% -29%), Con 222 (8% -16%), UKIP 70 (3%)
Lib Dem GAIN from Lab with a majority of 1,544 (57%) on a swing of 44% from Lab to Lib Dem

Totteridge on Wycombe (2009)
Lib Dem 733 (54% +37%), Con 408 (30% -11%), Lab 214 (16% -26%)
Lib Dem GAIN from Lab with a majorty of 325 (24%) on a swing of 24% from Con to Lib Dem (31.5% from Lab to Lib Dem)

Gooshays on Havering (2013)
UKIP 831 (39% +25%), Lab 569 (27% -2%), Con 280 (13% -13%), Ratepayers 227 (11% +1%), BNP 202 (10% -13%), Residents 24 (1%)
UKIP GAIN from Con with a majority of 262 (12%) on a swing of 13.5% from Lab to UKIP (19% from Con to UKIP)

Overall if you average out the changes for the governing party in every local by-election they defended the day after the Budget from 2007 to 2015 you find out that the Government loses 6% compared to the last election which means that based on that long term average Aylsham should be a Liberal Democrat gain and Hutton will become a marginal, but will George will able to buck the trend (and if he does, will he be able to say “I am the true successor to Cameron!”)

Harry Hayfield


A budget for the referendum and Osborne’s career ambitions

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016


The measures designed for a REMAIN outcome

Perhaps the most astute post budget observation was contained in this Tweet from the political academic Tim Bale.

Perhaps more than anybody Osborne’s career is very much tied up with REMAIN winning the referendum in three months time and who could blame him for using the platform of the budget to help the cause.

He devoted a section of his statement to echoing the warnings of the dangers of an LEAVE vote in what was one of the most politicised budgets that I can recall. He also announced measured on savings and other matters designed specifically for the younger generations who have largely been ignored by him in the past.

Tim Bale’s comment hits the nail on the head. With older people the most likely to want out Osborne needs to ensure that as many of those in the electorate who most support remain do actually turn out on June 23rd.

Given the important role that he’ll play in the coming months he also desperately needs the budget to help restore his reputation.

Others have described the sugar tax announcement as a dead cat move designed to divert attention from some of the figures that have not been so good.

I thought he did quite well.

Whether it’ll help his leadership ambitions it is too early to say.

Mike Smithson


Alastair Meeks says George Osborne’s star is dimming

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Ozzy Pose

What the Chancellor should do if he wants the top job

The last few months have not been good for George Osborne.  When he rose to give the last budget in July, he looked like a man ready to take over the top job.  Following the general election he had been appointed First Secretary of State, recognising his place as second among equals.  He had carved out a distinct policy agenda of his own within government on the northern powerhouse.  The economy was looking sound and the opposition was nowhere.

Since then, the Chancellor has had a succession of mishaps, some self-inflicted and some external.  The prospects for the economy look much less certain, thanks largely to turbulence elsewhere in the world.  He has been forced to retreat on two separate measures trailed in that budget: first, he had to give up on the idea of cutting tax credits; next, he has been forced to scale back his ambitions to reform the taxation of pensions.  Finally, he has been identified closely with the Remain campaign, accused of doffing up backbenchers toying with supporting Leave, thus alienating a large part of the electorate for choosing the next Conservative party leader.

As a result, he finds himself with three connected problems with numbers.  First, the nation continues to run a substantial deficit which he needs to close – it is still forecast to be 3.7% for this tax year and 2.2% for the next tax year.  Secondly, he needs to close the deficit using measures that will command majority support in the House of Commons, yet with a majority of just 12 he has already found out twice that he cannot rely on the discipline of enough Conservative MPs to force through either unpopular spending cuts or unpopular tax rises.  Thirdly, any attempt to close the deficit by taxing the middle classes will damage his chances with the Conservative party electorate still further.

So what should George Osborne do?  Let’s put to one side the fact that he has the second most important job in British politics and assume that the only thing he cares about is securing the most important job in British politics.  What should George Osborne do to maximise his chances of securing the crown?

George Osborne is one of Britain’s most visible politicians and very much a known quantity:

  • He’s not got a particularly likeable persona, seeming cold and arrogant
  • He is widely thought to be competent
  • He is also widely thought to be clever
  • He is seen as posh and metropolitan
  • He is assumed to be ambitious
  • He lacks the common touch

None of this looks likely to change at any point before he steps down from the front rank of politicians.  If George Osborne does stand for the leadership on David Cameron’s retirement from office, he will not win by campaigning on his winsome personality.  George Osborne’s popularity waxes and wanes with the performance of the economy and the measures that he proposes as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  He represents competence rather than charm.

There is not too much he can do to change this and nor should he try.  George Osborne is apparently a very self-aware politician, keenly aware of his limitations.  It does beg the question whether he really wants to be Prime Minister in the first place.

But let’s assume he does.  He’s never going to be able to compete with Boris Johnson, for example, on charisma or likeability.  He should instead work on reinforcing the public’s perception that he has breadth and depth of vision.  All of his putative rivals are going to struggle to match him in those areas.

What this means is simply that he should do his day job to the best of his ability.  It is not in the nature of the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer to be taking popular decisions year in year out.  In all likelihood, the election for next Conservative leader will not be for some time.  If he constantly works on the basis that his next action is going to be uppermost in the minds of Conservative party members when choosing the next leader, he is going to make some terrible decisions that won’t help him get the job anyway.  He might just as well do the right thing and hope to get credit for being far sighted in due course.  Sometimes the best strategy is simply to do your job professionally.  This is one of those occasions.

Rather than chasing popularity, he should be making a great show in the budget of being aware that he is taking unpopular decisions and insisting that his party back him in making these difficult but necessary choices.  He should stop arguing that £4 billion of cuts are loose change.  He should start being very straight with the public about any pain that needs to be inflicted.  If he can find a form of words to hint that he might be aware that he is damaging his chances of taking over as leader in order to do the best that he can for his country in his current job, so much the better: self-sacrifice always goes down well, especially if it can be contrasted with others transparently acting in a self-serving manner.

Then he should go out and campaign hard for Remain.  He’s already firmly tied in his party’s imagination to the Remain camp and by far his best chance of taking the top job arises if Remain wins well, so he should take the opportunity to show his campaigning acumen.  David Cameron is fighting hard to ensure that he is not left as a lame duck.  George Osborne should follow his close friend’s example.  Sooner or later, leaders have to lead.

Alastair Meeks


Meet the man who could win the referendum for Leave

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Ozzy budget

An unpopular budget could see the referendum become an opportunity to kick the government and that’s not good news for Remain.

I’m not a fan of plebiscites simply because often they become a referendum not on the substantive issue of the referendum but a referendum on the Government of the day and an opportunity to give the government a kicking without the risk of a change of government.

During the AV referendum, it seemed the primary reason many voters voted to reject AV was to give Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems a kicking. If the voters had decided to focus on the merits of the Alternative Voting system the 2015 general election might well have been conducted under AV and not First Past The Post.

This year’s budget is scheduled to be held three months before the referendum, as we saw with last summer’s budget and the 2012 omnishambles budget, the damaging legacy of a budget can last long after the budget has been delivered.

With George Osborne saying last month the economic headwinds aren’t going in the UK’s favour, a few days ago the borrowing figures were not moving in Osborne’s favour and with pension experts like Alastair Meeks forecasting Osborne is hoping to raid pension pots without you noticing and you can see this being a very unpopular budget as Osborne has to raises taxes, and that’s before you take into account Osborne’s poor personal ratings.

So if it is an unpopular budget, the referendum gives voters an opportunity to express their displeasure, and if Remain wants to win, they need Labour voters to turnout and back remain, an unpopular budget isn’t the best way to ensure that happens. Since the election the government appears to have gone out of its way to annoy voters, including their own supporters, so this budget might well be a continuation of that tin ear approach as Corbyn insulates them from general election unpopularity.

Often budgets are hyped up as the most important budget ever, this year’s budget might actually live up to the hype if it effects the outcome of the EU referendum. So no pressure George, The United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union is in your hands. Though as we saw in 2007 he can be brilliant, so much so that Gordon Brown cancelled the election that never was, and the Tories won last year in part because of Osborne’s stewardship of the economy,