Archive for the 'Campaigning' Category

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Moore remains odds-on favourite in Alabama even though the Dems are spending nearly ten times as much on TV ads like these

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Will the big spending Dems campaign produce a sensation?

The biggest current political betting markets in the UK are not about British politics at all. They were about the US with Trump’s survival being number one and the Alabama senate race, which takes place next Tuesday, number two.

The latter has the advantage of being settled very soon. Punters have only a few days to wait until they know whether their gamble has paid off or not.

At the moment on Betfair the Republicans, with their controversial candidate, is rated as an 80% chance with the Democratic man on 20%.

The polling has this very tight with most showing a small GOP lead though some have Moore behind.

In normal times with a normal candidate the GOP would be an absolute certainty. This is very strong territory for the party and it is only the allegations of sexual transgressions by several women that have given the Democratic Party any hope.

Everything is going to depend on turn out next Tuesday and here it is hard for pollsters to get this right.

My sense is that the Democratic campaign with ads like the ones above are designed to impede turnout amongst Republican voters and persuade Democratic ones that their man had a chance.

My view is that at current odds that the betting value is with the Democratic party who are worth a punt.

Mike Smithson




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Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

All around the developed world, political loyalties are breaking down.  Electorates in Britain and the USA have gambled on reckless options in Brexit and Trump.  The hard right is a formidable political force in traditionally prosperous countries such as Sweden and Austria (where they may enter coalition government after the imminent election), and anti-immigrant voters have found their voice in France and Germany.  Secessionists ride high in Scotland and Catalonia.  Centrists find themselves outflanked on the left too, with centre left parties recording historic lows in many countries.  Everywhere you can find people who are mad as hell and who aren’t going to take it any longer.

Tolstoy began Anna Karenina by observing that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  So what of the unhappy British family?

The first thing to note is that actually the British family is not unhappy.  93% of respondents told Eurobarometer that they were fairly or very satisfied with their life in 2016, a percentage that has been fairly constant for three years and which has risen from 85% in 1973.   Whatever else this is, this is not an argument borne out of despair and strife.  However, a recent YouGov poll showed that Labour had taken the lead with ABC1s while the Conservatives had taken the lead with C2DEs.  The party of the middle class and the party of the working class are swapping roles.

Various explanations have been given for this political ferment.  Let’s take a look at some of them.

Anywheres v Somewheres

David Goodhart’s book “The Road To Somewhere” posits the idea that we are seeing a culture war between Somewheres (people rooted in a particular locality) and Anywheres (people who are educated and outward-looking).  The book has been widely praised. So I am sure that he will not particularly mind that I regard his theory as both simplistic and uninformative.

There is nothing new about these different groupings.  Aesop’s Fable of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse shows just how longstanding these groupings are.  More than 20 years ago, Jarvis Cocker told a Greek woman with a thirst for knowledge that she would never understand how it felt to live your life without meaning or control.  Then we got Cool Britannia, showing that this faultline wasn’t going to get in the way of positivity or be particularly politically relevant for many years.

The divide between Somewheres and Anywheres is generational as much as anything else.  Many Anywheres have Somewhere parents and grandparents – it made for quite a few awkward Christmas dinners last year.  People settle down with age.

Why is local identity suddenly so much more important in guiding votes than it was previously?  The answer is not to be found in the attributes of Somewheres and Anywheres, and nor is the solution to solving the culture war that Mr Goodhart identifies.  What he is describing is a symptom, not the cause.   We must look elsewhere.

Immigration

For many people, if you want to know the name of the game, immigration’s what you need.  Curiously, many different reasons are given why immigration is important.

Some argue that voters are motivated by the impact that immigration has on jobs.  This seems unlikely.  First, the jobs market continues to set records, with employment at record highs, unemployment at 40 year lows and job vacancies at record highs.  Secondly, those agitating about immigration are disproportionately likely to be retired, so they have no economic stake in the jobs market.  Thirdly, according to a recent YouGov poll, 61 per cent of Leave supporters believe significant damage to the UK economy is a price worth paying to get your way on Brexit and 39 per cent would sacrifice their job or a family member’s job for Brexit (a percentage that was still higher among the oldest, retired, age groups).  A solely economic interpretation of immigration is inadequate to explain what is going on.  For the same reason, I am sceptical that any perceived impact that immigration has on wage growth has much to do with this.

Nevertheless, with so many voters naming immigration as one of the most pressing subjects in polls, it seems likely to be playing a part in any Morlock intifada.  It is impossible to ignore the unpalatable possibility that it is a simple dislike of foreigners that makes immigration so unpopular with some.   But just as there have always been Somewheres and Anywheres, there have always been people who didn’t like foreigners.  Has anything changed to make this more important?

There is a loose inverse correlation between levels of immigration in an area and hostility to it (a phenomenon also seen in election results in the USA and Germany).  This partly reflects that fact that immigrants are unsurprisingly more in favour of immigration than native.  It is sometimes suggested that anti-immigration sentiment is driven in low immigration areas by observation of what has happened in high immigration areas.  This would be more convincing if the areas most hostile to immigration didn’t include some of the most deprived areas of the country.

It is possible that the competition that immigrants appear to provide for public sector resources may play a part.  In most areas this is not particularly rational because immigrants are not particularly heavy users of public sector resources, but at a time when public sector resources are under strain, any additional strain on them is going to come under scrutiny.

This in turn leads on to an entirely different explanation for the zeitgeist.

Austerity

Cards on the table: this is my preferred explanation.  The mood of discontent is not confined to surly yokels who could double as extras from Deliverance.  Explanations such as immigration which seek to explain the rise of the far right, are missing what’s motivating the rise of the left as well.

Philip K Dick wrote in Valis about, among other things, drug-addled hippies who believed that the Roman Empire had never ended.  I’m no hippie – can’t grow the hair – but I believe that the financial crash never ended.  Exhibit A is the national debt, which continues to grow rapidly.

The consequent austerity has created losers in many different groupings and it has fallen out of favour.  The (still mighty) deficit did not feature in the 2017 general election.  Votes were won by promising to spend money on pet projects, whether Brexit or tuition fees or uncutting women’s pensions or whatever.  The public want to see signs that the government can spend as well as tax. When David Cameron said that we’re all in this together, he was being truthful.  A lot of people, however, were unhappy about that or have since lost patience.

Citizens of nowhere

In this regard, big business was a trendsetter.  Bob Diamond said as early as 2012 that the time for contrition by banks was over.  This, however, was not an idea whose time had come.

The public has been outraged by a succession of stories that suggest that many companies, especially internet companies, see tax as something for the little people.  Starbucks, Amazon, Google, Facebook and now Airbnb have come under the spotlight.  That they have properly paid all tax due misses the point: the system seems set up for the benefit of megacorporations and skewed against the ordinary people.

Nor does the private sector seem particularly competent.  Southern Railways are a byword for dysfunctionality.  Quasi-utilities like banks and phone companies seem incapable of keeping data safe.

Summary

So voters are seeing public services under strain.  They are feeling the taxes but not seeing the spending.  Meanwhile, the private sector is also failing to impress.  The country is changing and not in ways that the voters like.  Johnny Rotten finished the last Sex Pistols gig with the line “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”  Right now, the public have that feeling.  Politicians who fail to understand that are in trouble.

Alastair Meeks

 




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Looking at conference rhetoric – the politics of fear and the politics of hope

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

A guest slot by CycleFree

It has become a truism that political campaigns based on fear are doomed to fail. Positive visions, hope and excitement are what we want, apparently. And there is some evidence to support this: Corbyn’s genuinely inspiring campaigning for what he has said and believed these last four (five?) decades, the increasingly desperate Remain campaign and, of course, May’s abysmal GE campaign, which wholly failed to explain why Corbyn’s choices and what they say about his character, judgment and, therefore, how he would govern would affect voters and in ways which resonated with them.

But is this entirely true? Labour’s campaigns have always stoked fears that the NHS will be destroyed if the Tories are in power. Leave’s campaign last year was based in very large part on fear of foreigners, specifically fear of Turks and young male migrants/refugees from unsavoury parts of the world. Corbyn would likely never have won as many middle class/middle aged voters as he did were it not for the latter’s fear that the Tories would take their homes and savings in old age if they fell ill, a fear skilfully exploited by Labour with the “dementia tax label. In both the latter cases, the campaign which won (the referendum or argument) was the one which best exploited people’s fears as well as presenting an appealing vision of a better way (No University Fees! Keep Your Home! Freedom from the EU!) however unachievable, superficial or lacking in detail that vision may have been or, in the case of Brexit, is now being shown as being.

And so to this week’s Labour conference. Forget the now inevitable argument about whether Labour is tackling anti-Semitism within its ranks (it isn’t and it won’t). Forget the ignorant insults aimed at a 96 year old man and his grandson (take a bow Emma Dent-Coad, MP for Kensington. That’s just what your Grenfell Towers constituents elected you for). Forget Shami making a fool of herself yet again suggesting laws one doesn’t like can be ignored. After all she is only following an earlier Baroness and Attorney-General who thought laws were only for others. Forget even Corbyn’s speech: undoubtedly well received in the hall and elsewhere.

No. The most significant thing said this week was McDonnell’s statement that the next Labour government would not be a traditional” Labour one. We would be well advised to take this statement seriously. Traditionally, Labour governments have all sought to reassure as well as be radical: reassure voters that the economy would be safe, if more fairly run, that taxes would only be on the rich, that public services would be nurtured and valued, reassure business that Labour would invest, reassure the markets that Labour would be a sensible custodian of the nation’s finances.

McDonnell’s and Corbyn’s primary aim is not to reassure, other than as a tactic. It is to change very radically Britain’s economic and political settlement. And the “run on the pound” and “war gaming” remarks are not an error. They are an indication that they intend seeing their measures through and taking whatever steps may be necessary to do so. The fact that these may be unprecedented or harmful or have unintended consequences or hurt those who have voted for them may count for little or nothing. So what might these measures be if, say, money starts flowing out of Britain the day after McDonnell gets made Chancellor? Capital controls? Temporary bank closures? Limits on how much people are allowed to take out? A tax on all savings held in banks in the UK above a certain limit? Conversion of savings into bonds or shares? Seizure of savings above a certain limit?

Alarmist? Improbable? Why? All these things happened to ordinary people in Cyprus a mere 5 years ago. Sure they happened as part of a bank bailout and were blessed by the EU and there were special circumstances: the fact that so much Russian and other “dirty” money was in Cyprus made it easier for some to justify. Still, if it happened there, it could happen here and justifications would be easy for Labour to construct. No-one loves the rich or the markets or bankers, especially if they are seen as obstructing an elected government. For the past 30 years or so, the assumption everywhere has been that you can’t or shouldn’t even try to buck the markets. But bucking the markets is exactly what Corbyn and McDonnell want to do. The Tories would do well not to underestimate both the breadth of Corbyn and McDonnell’s vision nor their determination.

If those opposed to this want to make the case for why it will be harmful, they need to start some war gaming of their own. They need to explain how such measures will affect ordinary voters now, not by reference to the 1970’s: not “the markets won’t wear it” or “remember Callaghan and the IMF” but “you won’t be able to pay for that foreign holiday or buy stuff from Amazon in Luxembourg” or 20% of the money Mum had put by for her care has been taken or “the money saved/to be given to us as a deposit for a home will be in shares you won’t be able to sell for years” or “Dad has to pay a wealth tax on his house out of his pension and can’t”. They need to start demolishing, forensically, item by item, those Labour proposals which won’t work – and only those – and they need to start making the case now.

Fear of losing what you have is a powerful motivator, as the reaction to the dementia tax showed. Fear of being made worse off is equally powerful, as the reaction to university fees and interest rates on the loans also showed. It is a key part of any effective campaign. It is not the only one, of course. It won’t necessarily win on its own. So we will have to wait and see for the Tory Conference whether the Tories are capable of attacking Labour intelligently or only each other and, more critically, whether they have any positive story to tell the country.

CycleFree



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Corbyn keeps his shirt on in Poldark country

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Video: Footage of Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Redruth last month.

We all know that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t need to take his shirt off to get people singing “Ooo”. So the Labour leader was fully clad when he fetched up in Poldark country for Labour campaign rally in high summer. If he’d shown any inclination to emulate Aidan Turner’s naked sea bathing and shirtless gardening  in the BBC period drama his minders would doubtless have warned him against validating Theresa May’s bizarre comment in the General Election about “Jeremy Corbyn going alone and naked” into Brexit negotiations.

I was in Camborne because the number 39A bus from Penzance went straight past the door of our B&B. So, while the rest of the family got on with swimming and surfing, I set off to check up on Jeremy Corbyn’s “summer-campaigning blitz” in scores of Tory-held marginals.

His events team had found him a dramatic backdrop which had links to Poldark. The chimney and winding gear of a former tin and copper mine is part of the Heartlands venue  which has Unesco World Heritage Site status because of the historical importance of Cornish mining and miners, as a museum displays explains. “At one time, when tin was the most wanted metal on Earth, Cornwall and its miners ruled the world …. they’ve taught many a miner how to drill miles underground and out to sea. In short, they changed the course of engineering and mining history.”

The two and a half thousand who turned up in the sunshine to the open air rally were told by the leader he wished he’d campaigned in Cornwall in the General Election. He’ll undoubtedly be back next time.  Even without a sprinkling of  the help of Corbyn charisma the Cornish Labour registered some striking advances.

In Camborne and Redruth they pushed their vote up by nearly 20 per cent, leapfrogging the Lib Dems, and coming within 1,600 votes of gaining the Tory seat. It’s in the top thirty Labour targets needing a swing of less than 2 per cent. In neighbouring Truro and Falmouth the Labour vote shot up by 12,000, a 22% increase, making the Tories vulnerable to a swing of around 4 %. At the Camborne rally, Corbyn flanked by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, laid in to Tory failures in the NHS. Earlier he’d visted a hospital that is struggling to recruit staff.

Back at Westminster after his summer on the road the Labour leader is committed to a broad programme of policy development. This week he will give his backing to a significant development which has been drawn up by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and the chair of Labour Business, Hamish Sandison.

Corbyn will urge all CLPs to appoint Business Liaison Officers in parallel with existing Trade Union Liaison Officers. He is likely to recall the key statement in Labour’s manifesto: “Labour understands that wealth creation is a collective endeavour – between workers, entrepreneurs, investors, and government. Each contributes and each must share fairly in the rewards.”

The aim, in the words of Hamish Sandison, is to show that “Labour is the natural party of business”  Labour Business is affiliated to the party as a socialist society and in a Huffington Post article the chair argued: “We are the country’s largest political party, with more than half a million members, and we almost certainly have more business people in our ranks than any other political party in Britain. Our members own or run small businesses, work in medium and large sized companies, and hold senior management positions throughout the business community.”

I believe this is a significant initiative. Demonstrating that the Tories have failed on the economy is important but it’s not enough. Labour have to show they can make the country better off — and how. A strategic partnership with businesses of all sizes is a vital part of that.

Don Brind



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The chart that shows general election campaigns don’t matter (usually)

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

One of the axioms of British politics is that general election campaigns don’t matter, and the stats in the above chart by Ben Page of Ipsos MORI does back that up, with sub margin of error changes during past campaigns but the 2017 general election campaign really didn’t stick to past conventions.

The question was 2017 an outlier or the beginning of a trend? My instinct is that at the next general election campaign the Tories couldn’t run a worse campaign than 2017 even if they tried, so 2017 was an outlier of a campaign in my view, though I’m assuming neither Theresa May nor the gruesome twosome Nick Timothy & Fiona Hill will be involved in the next Tory general election campaign.

TSE



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One of the architects of the worst general election campaign in history gives his thoughts on the campaign

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

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It looks like it was Labour’s ground game was crucial

Sir Lynton Crosby has spoken about the general election campaign which saw Mrs May squander David Cameron’s majority, The Guardian report that

Crosby cautioned against a simplistic analysis of the result, saying commentary had exaggerated the significance of the youth vote.

He said the failure of older voters to turn out for the election was just as significant.

The pollster also warned that the rise of third-party campaigning for Corbyn had a “significant influence” on the campaign. He made specific reference to the Momentum grassroots group, describing the trend of growing third-party campaigns, particularly from the left, as a “warning sign” for politics in Australia and the business community.

“I think that was a very important influence on the campaign,” he said.

“You can have all of the money in the world, and you can have all of the techniques in the world, but at the end of the day … you’ve got to get people out to vote, which means having people out on the ground, knocking on doors.”

I find this analysis interesting because the trend in politics across the world, including in the UK, has been away from traditional knocking on doors towards data driven micro targeting of voters. If we are returning to the traditional ways of campaigning that might be a real problem for the Tories, as they have fewer members than Labour, and that Tory members are generally much older than their Labour counterparts, all things being equal, this gives Labour a real advantage at the next general election.

Sir Lynton also observes ‘against assuming May’s leadership was over, citing the example of long-serving conservative Australian prime minister, John Howard, who was once labelled “Mr 14%” for his poor performance in the polls. “I’m not in the business of writing anyone off,” Crosby said.’ But it is difficult to take that analysis seriously because Sir Lynton thinks Mrs May ‘got a record vote’, when the reality is she didn’t.

TSE



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The Tories are on the run over the public sector pay cap. So why is Don Brind frustrated by Labour’s campaign?

Monday, July 10th, 2017

There was no doubting the passion and conviction that Jeremy Corbyn brought to the Commons as he challenged the Prime Minister  over the pay cap which, he said, “causes real shortages in nursing, teaching and many other professions, as well as real hardship.” He added, “this pay cap is recklessly exploiting the good will of public servants.”

Many Tories agree, including Dr Dan Poulter MP, who is a practising doctor.  He says claims of a huge extra cost ignore the soaring bill for paying agencies to plug the gaps left by shortages of permanent staff. He fears that doctors, nurses and other staff are “properly rewarded”, they will flee the NHS in growing numbers.

So Jeremy Corbyn is winning the argument but what worries me he is deploying only part of the case for scrapping the cap. Apart from the observation that “The low-pay epidemic is a threat to our economic stability,” the Corbyn challenge to Theresa was essentially a moral one, an assertion that what the Tories was doing was unfair.

What was missing was the positive argument that pay rises for public sector workers make sound economic sense; that what’s good for public servants is good for the country as a whole.

This matters for two reasons. Firstly, Labour’s approach is easily caricatured as not being interested in workers outside the public sector, as Shadow Justice secretary Richard Burgon found when he appeared on BBC Question Time. He was harangued by a small businessman for “living in a bubble”.

Secondly, it means that Labour are missing an opportunity to deal with a long standing problem – the persistent polling leads that the Tories enjoy on economic competence.

Labour List reported last week that Labour have moved into the lead in the polls and Jeremy Corbyn’s personal score had jumped  “But May and Hammond as a team are still more trusted on the economy than Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.” The deficit is around a third of what it was at the end of last year – but the party still have some way to go to establish economic credibility.

Labour need a two-pronged attack . First of all, The current Tory disarray offers the chance to show that the Conservative claim to have created a “strong economy” ia Big Lie. The reality is that after seven years with the Tories at the helm the British economy is weak and shaky.

In a strong economy living standards rise and there are high skilled well paid jobs. Today, living standards are falling and too many are in low paid and insecure work that makes it hard for families to make ends meet. In a strong economy the NHS and education get the funds needed to cover rising costs. In this shaky economy the NHS and schools are being squeezed.

The economy is shaky because there are fundamental weaknesses which the Conservatives have failed to fix. Top of the list is the productivity gap – we lag the Germans and American by 30% in what is produced by the average worker. And new figures the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show UK productivity is back below the level it was pre-crash. We’re heading for an entire decade of stalled growth.

On top of that we don’t pay our way in the world. We have a persistent deficit of around £100 billion a year with more money flowing out than we earn from our trade. Thirdly, the Bank of England is worried about the level of household debt.

During the election around a hundred economists wrote to the Guardian supporting Labour plans to strengthen and develop the economy and ensure that its benefits are more fairly shared and sustainable, as well as being fiscally responsible and based on sound estimations.”

One of the signatories Ann Pettifor argues that a modest 3% pay rise for five million workers is easily affordable, especially since around 40% of the money would eventually find its way back to the Treasury from the workers themselves and from the enterprises where they spend their extra cash.

Kam Gill of the TUC says suppressing public sector pay has already pulled £1.8bn of spending power out of the economy and this is driving the consumer debt bubble. “Allowing wages to fall in relation to the cost of living is becoming fiscally irresponsible.”

What Tory austerity has proved is that you can’t cut your way to prosperity. You have to build it through investment in infrastructure and skills which are where the jobs of the future come from. Not only is inequality the root of many social evils it is also the enemy of innovation and economic advance. Rising inequality has caused economic instability and hampered growth.

Scrapping the pay cap is both socially just and economically sound. Over to you Jeremy

Don Brind





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Cost to tax-payers of TMay’s calamitous election decision and terrible campaign: £1bn

Monday, June 26th, 2017

This gives the Tories an effective majority of 15

A deal has been done. The Tories are to be propped up in Parliament by the 10 DUP MPs who have negotiated a £1bn deal for the province.

So TMay’s party will be able to struggle on although the parliamentary arithmetic still looks tight and is nothing like as comfortable as during the 2010-2015 CON-LD coalition. We are going to see some very tight Commons votes with the opposition parties seeking to ambush the government all the time. It is not going to be comfortable being an MP.

As well as the controversial cash payment Team May has had to cut some of the manifesto commitments such as abandoning the pensior trip lock, the move against the winter fuel payment and the social care plans.

In return the DUP will support the Tories over the Queen’s Speech, in confidence motions and on budgets. The combined CON+DUP contingent is 328. My calculation is that with Sinn Fein MPs continuing their refusal to take up their seats the Tories have an effective majority of 15 for the key votes.

This should create some stability though the SNP are going to put a lot of pressure on the Scottish Tory MPs who were elected two and a half weeks ago.

The deal makes an early election much less likely which has been reflected in the betting.

Whether it secures the future of the person who created this mess for the blue team, Mrs. May, is hard to say. It was her decision to go for an election three years early and her lack of campaigning skills that lost the party its working majority.

As for where the £1bn comes from – that’s likely to be a contentious issue whenever the Tories try to bring in any cuts.

Mike Smithson