Recent Articles



Even Tories know Osborne’s tax changes won’t help lower paid

by Sunder Katwala     March 23, 2011 at 10:20 am

Osborne will use the increase tax threshold to claim that he has lowered personal tax bills, and is trying to take the poor out of tax.

That the claim is misleading was obvious as soon as this key budget pledge was pre-spun on 1st March – as the claim relies on ignoring the VAT rise.
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Banning soup kitchens is only the start of the attack on London’s homeless

by Sunder Katwala     February 28, 2011 at 8:59 am

The richest Tory-run Council in the country is seeking to ban soup kitchens for the homeless from an area around Westminster Cathedral. Labour Uncut has provided the documents to prove that they really hadn’t made up the story with a “you couldn’t make it up” feel to it.

A controversy over banning soup kitchens could prove particularly toxic for the “big society”.
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How Cameron’s new modernising advisor sees the Conservative party

by Sunder Katwala     February 16, 2011 at 8:28 am

Andrew Cooper is to become Downing Street director of strategy, having been head of the pollster Populus.

There was a nervous reaction from Tim Montgomerie, the influential editor of ConservativeHome, who quickly tweeted:

Andrew Cooper once described the Tory grassroots as “vile” to me. And now he’s head of strategy for David Cameron.

There is good evidence that they have substantive reasons to be nervous.

The new director of strategy certainly takes a pretty much diametrically opposed view of why the Tories fell short at the last election to that offered in the ConservativeHome post-election inquest.

Cooper strongly supports the thesis that the Conservatives fell short because voters did not feel that they had changed enough – which does indeed cast the Tory party as much more the problem than the solution.

Surprisingly little attention has been paid to the evidence that Cameron is no longer seen as more centrist than his party by the public. But Cooper will probably fear the truth in Ed Miliband’s observation that “we are seeing the recontamination of the Tory brand“.

This was how I reported Andrew Cooper’s critique of the Tory election campaign for the New Statesman.

He said last night that the strategic weakness of the Tory campaign was always to respond with an “unremittingly negative” attack on Gordon Brown, which failed to take on board how far the decisive electoral question remained voters’ doubts about the Conservatives. This meant that they failed to secure enough support – most notably in Scotland, in London (particularly among non-white voters), and among public-sector workers and the less well-off, where those who agreed it was time for a change remained repelled by the risk of the “same old Tories”.

As the Tory leadership realised this, they began to make “much more detailed preparations for a hung parliament than anybody realised”, Cooper said.

Cooper was, in effect, voicing a significant criticism of George Osborne’s approach to electoral and campaign strategy. Osborne was the voice of the “relentlessly negative” messaging which, on Cooper’s analysis, simply poured energy and resources into an argument the Tories had already won.

After the 2005 election, Cooper produced a presentation which emphasised that 79% of Tory voters felt the party was “on the right track to get into power before too long” but only 28% of non-Tories agreed.

Cooper and Michael Gove offered a route-map, according to Tim Bale’s book, for the Cameroons.

1. Always try to see ourselves through the voters’ eyes.

2. Talk about the issues that matter most to voters (not the issues that we’re most at home with).

3. Use the language of people, not the language of politicians.

4. “Tell people what we stand for – not (just) what is wrong with Labour. Unless we give voters new reasons to support us they won’t.

5. Remember Tim Bell’s rule: ‘if they haven’t heard it, you haven’t said it’ – so repetition is vital.

6. Respect modern Britain. If we seem not to like Britain today, the feeling will surely be reciprocated.

7. Don’t be shrill or strident – that’s not how normal civilised people behave.

8. Remember that whatever we are talking about, the most important message is what we are saying about ourselves.

9. Face the fact that we lost people’s trust because of how we behave (and sound) as well as what we say”.

10. Focus on the voters we have to win, don’t preach to the converted.

11. Be disciplined and consistent.

The focus on turning the Tories into ‘normal civilised people’ does suggest a particular view of the party as mainly containing idiosyncratic, swivel-eyed ideologues.

What is also striking now is just how strongly the emphasis is on etiquette and behaviour, and just how little there is on political content.

Perhaps one of the lessons of David Cameron’s incomplete and shallow modernisation of his party is that good manners are important, but not a substitute for a political strategy.


A longer version of this article is at Next Left

Most Libdems have also started to shift against the cuts

by Sunder Katwala     February 14, 2011 at 11:30 am

The Independent on Sunday/Sunday Mirror ComRes polling yesterday brought bad news for the Coalition, as John Rentoul sets out, with opinion shifting against the government on every front.

The long lost “fair cuts” argument haemhorrages further. Trailing by 28-57% on whether the government is cutting too severely and too fast suggests the these ‘cuts are necessary’ case is in increasing trouble too.
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Work with us to stop Pickles, say Labour councillors today

by Sunder Katwala     February 11, 2011 at 8:30 am

A government source confirms to The Times (£) that Eric Pickles’ relationship with local councils has become dysfunctional.

They hate him and he hates them.

As a result, LibDem council leaders have asked Nick Clegg to step in so that they don’t have to deal with the Tory Community Secretary.
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Eric Pickles’ crusade in Whitehall is being exposed for its unfairness

by Sunder Katwala     February 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Many of the most senior Liberal Democrats in local government have attacked the government’s local government spending settlement, publicly declaring no confidence in the fairness of the government’s approach to cuts and in Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who the LibDems accuse of “gunboat diplomacy” in an extraordinary letter to The Times (£).

As The Times reports (£):

The grassroots of the Liberal Democrats have declared open revolt over the scale and pace of cuts to frontline local services.

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How voters see Cameron, Clegg and Miliband on the political spectrum

by Sunder Katwala     January 30, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Voters no longer believe that David Cameron is more centrist than the Conservative party as a whole, having changed their minds about this since May. That is one of the striking and potentially politically significant findings of a YouGov/Prospect poll (see graphic here).

Voters are asked to use a 200 point scale, with 0 as the centre, and where -100 is very left-wing and +100 is very right wing.

The average voter continues to think of themselves as very close to the political centre, though there has been a mild lean leftwards among the electorate.

The January 2011 survey now puts the average 3 points to the left-of-centre, compared to 1 point right-of-centre in May 2010. There are other interesting findings too.
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How do lefties prevent people like Boris getting a tax cut?

by Sunder Katwala     January 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm

The Daily Telegraph secured an interview in Davos with the newspaper’s own columnist Boris Johnson, who also works as the Mayor of London.

His political prescriptions are often rather vague. He wants the government to show a bit of Thatcher and Tebbit – taking on the unions – but rather more Heseltine too, in having a proper plan for growth.
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Five similarities between Hillary Clinton and Ed Balls

by Sunder Katwala     January 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm

As Ed Balls takes up the key role of Shadow Chancellor for the Labour Opposition, in many ways the politician he most resembles is US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Here are five parallels between the two.
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Ed Balls and the Tory trap

by Sunder Katwala     January 21, 2011 at 8:50 am

Those Conservatives who are over-excited about Balls’ appointment for this reason risk luring themselves further into the trap of preaching only to the converted.

If their core problem in May 2010 was that running against Gordon Brown was not enough, it seems rather curious to hope that it might be their salvation in 2015.

Last May, three-quarters of the public wanted a change from Labour. Where the Conservatives failed was in making their own case.
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