Monday, February 28, 2005

Spot the difference

It's true the difference between the three main parties can only be seen with an electronic microscope! Anyway, the Guardian has decided to try and figure out what, if any, differences they have (scroll down the article for a breakdown of the issues):

“In an age of allegedly post-ideological politics, when the battles between the Thatcherite right and the Bennite left seem like distant history, it is a common complaint among disgruntled voters and activists that Britain has quietly collapsed into a prosperous managerial regime. As Alexander Pope put it in the 18th century, when the revolutionary zeal of an earlier age was also frowned on: "For forms of government let fools contest / Whate'er is best administered is best." Pope died before zeal made a comeback.

But is it true that the right won the economic arguments and the left won the cultural arguments, as is sometimes asserted? George Bush does not think so: he fights "liberalism" on both fronts. In Britain the picture is, typically, more mixed as the parties polish their manifestos.”

Source: Spot the difference

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Kennedy calls for positive campaign

“Charles Kennedy has vowed to campaign on "principles and values" at the upcoming general election. Addressing his party's Scottish conference in Perth, he said negative campaigning damaged people's faith in politics and the Lib Dems would take the high ground.”

I guess by high ground what he means is tokenism and opportunism when there are votes in it! He’s playing a clever game though, with no real chance of winning the Lib Dems can sit back and look principled. Labour and the Tories know they have a chance of winning and will fight tooth and nail thus the election will be very dirty indeed. I will bet good money on the Lib Dems giving up this charade in the election after next if they have a shot of getting into power...

Source: Kennedy calls for positive campaign

Cook: Give Brown key campaign role

Perhaps the title should read; “Cook: Brown give me a job once you’ve got rid of Tony”? Not quite as snappy I know but let’s be frank, getting rid of Blair will be Brown’s central concern if Labour win the election. Cook knows this and I reckon he’s doing the political equivalent of sending flowers by making this an issue:

“Former foreign secretary Robin Cook called for Chancellor Gordon Brown to be given a central role in Labour's General Election campaign. Mr Cook warned that recent "negative" campaigning tactics were proving a turn off for voters and he contrasted them unfavourably with the positive campaign run by Mr Brown in the 2001 election.”

Source: Give Brown key campaign role - Cook

Friday, February 25, 2005

Will politics ever get e-serious?

Good article from Bill Thompson in the BBC Tech site. He writes about the potential political use of the net and the role it will play in the coming election.

“The political classes will be surprised indeed if the next General Election doesn't take place on 5 May. In fact Tony Blair might even lose votes if he disappoints us and goes for another date. Apart from the date, the other thing that is clear to all observers is that the internet will play a key part in the campaign, with exhortatory e-mails, party websites and candidate weblogs all being wheeled out to persuade voters of the merits of one party over another.”

Source: Will politics ever get e-serious?

Election fever ramps up

Things are starting go get a little tense now that the new polls are filtering their way through the parties, media and people. A couple of reports/opinion pieces point toward a fierce General Election (once it actually gets going) as well as contrary claims as to who is doing well with the electorate.

“Tony Blair's allies yesterday warned the prime minister that his hopes of winning a secure third term now depend on neutralising Michael Howard's Australian-imported election strategy after the all-but-written-off Conservatives were buoyed by two polls putting them within three points of Labour.”

Source: Blair urged to woo angry supporters as buoyant Tories close gap

“For weeks staff at the Conservative campaign headquarters in London's Victoria Street have been counting the days since the party attacked over asylum and immigration. At first the opinion polls did not shift. But the shadow cabinet was given clear guidance by Lynton Crosby, the campaign director who steered Australia's conservative government to unlikely election victories and who is now the indisputable master of the Tory campaign.

It would take seven days, he said, for an idea to travel from a Westminster policy announcement to the media and then the public. Then it would take at least another seven days for the issue to shift public opinion, then reach the pollsters and finally the newspapers in a published poll.”

Source: How the Tories got back in the game

“Party strategists are struggling to establish the mood of the electorate as the latest poll puts Labour six per cent ahead of the Conservatives. The YouGov poll for the Telegraph puts Labour support up three points since January on 38 per cent, with the Tories slipping two points to 32 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats down one on 21 per cent.

But any new found optimism in the Tory camp will be tempered by the latest YouGov poll which demonstrates the volatility of both polls and voters.”

Source: Poll confusion over Labour lead

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Election 'could be terror target'

It seems Blair really needs to move the focus away from those polls…

“Sir Ian Blair said terror groups would remember the effect of the Madrid bomb on Spain's general election last year. Other potential targets were the royal wedding and the UK's presidency of the European Union and G8, he said. He refused to say if there was specific information about the risk of a pre-poll attack. No 10 was similarly cautious but said the threat was real.”

Source: Election 'could be terror target'

Asylum cutting Labour's lead

It’s remarkable how fast things can turn around. Labour and the Tories were polls apart at one stage and now there’s only 2% difference (that’s half the average statistical error!) between them. While I still don’t see a Conservative victory happening, the best they’ll achieve is a hung parliament; it will be cause for concern for Neo Labour election strategists. More to the point though, what about the rest of us? Isn’t there something wrong with a democracy were the “choice” we have is between two parties that are as close in policy as they are in the polls?

“The Mori survey conducted for the Financial Times suggests asylum and immigration tops voters concerns and that many have been attracted by the Conservatives tough talking on the issue. With an election looming, probably on May 5, the poll puts Labour on 39 per cent, the Conservatives on 37 per cent, and the Lib Dems trailing on 18 per cent. It is the second poll in a week showing a substantial cut in Labour's lead, suggesting the Tory's campaign is working more effectively than their opponents.”

Source: Asylum cutting Labour's lead

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Labour announces UK General Election!

Ok, I haven’t got an amazingly exclusive story to break but Gordon Brown kind of does. It was announced today that the pre-election Budget will be on March 16th. Not a significant date you may comment but Blair isn’t likely to announce the election date that week (he’ll want the Budget good news to play out in the news for a few days) that means he will the week after. The following week is the cut off date for announcing a May 5th election.

So there we have a highly speculative but in my view very likely announcement of the UK General Election came today:

"Gordon Brown, the chancellor, will deliver his budget speech on March 16, the Treasury announced today, in what almost certainly will be the last budget before a May general election."

Source: Brown to deliver budget on March 16

Labour to help black candidates

As if to justify my previous comment about voting groups comes this:

“Labour party chiefs are promising urgent training and mentoring initiatives to help black candidates win parliamentary selections after four ethnic minority contenders were beaten in the contest to succeed Tony Banks in West Ham.

But that may not be enough to assuage widespread concern. Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote said: "Black Britain will be asking what must we do to get selected for a Labour party seat. It is a disaster for representative democracy. A factor in this debacle was the lack of black unity, caused in no small measure because talented black men and women are afforded so few opportunities. Now more than ever the party needs a black caucus and a serious debate about all-black shortlists."

Source: Labour to help black candidates

Which vote are you (revisited)?

It all comes to which voting group you represent and how organised/influential your group is. The importance of that point cannot be overstated. Today we have two more reports on that theme:

“Let me welcome Lyn Brown, the newly selected Labour candidate for West Ham, to the bearpit that is national politics. Lyn emerged the victor from an all-women shortlist (AWS) procedure, and should become a member of parliament after the next election. She is bright, affecting, and has local knowledge. The people of West Ham will be well served. But today the party should be ashamed of itself.

It declares to anyone who will listen that its dearest wish is to have more minority MPs. And yet, despite all the comments and signals from the regional organisers, the outgoing MP, black activists, and party chairman Ian McCartney, the local party decided that a white person is the best to represent a constituency in which nearly 60% are minorities.”

Source: Equality means everyone

“The Conservatives yesterday stepped up their bid to regain campaign momentum by using 200 local and regional newspapers to relaunch their plans to improve pensions and council tax rebates. Buoyed by yesterday's Guardian/ICM poll which showed the gap with Labour closing to 3%, the Tory leader, Michael Howard, unveiled the party's manifesto for older people before an audience of pensioners in London.”

Source: Tories step up fight for older voters

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Kennedy to woo women

I haven’t stopped giggling at the title of this article yet so here’s a quote and no commentary from me!

“The Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, will today make a pitch for women's votes in the upcoming general election, setting out his party's female-friendly policies on a range of issues from childcare to pensions. Launching his party's manifesto for women, Mr Kennedy will promise a guaranteed maternity income of £170 a week for mothers in the first six months of their baby's life.”

Polls apart?

Following on from yesterday’s theme of comparison I give you these two reports:

“Labour's opinion poll lead has been cut to only three points in the last month as the Tory pre-election campaign gains momentum, according to the results of this month's Guardian/ICM opinion poll published today.

With the expected date of the general election only 72 days away the poll results will alarm Labour election strategists who fear Conservatives could use the intensive "phoney war" campaigning to close the gap between the parties”

Source: Tories gain ground on Labour

“The detailed poll findings show that in spite of a modest recovery in Mr Blair's own personal ratings since the Iraq war his appeal is restricted to Labour's core vote.

Among the party faithful he is as popular as Mr Brown, with 80% of Labour voters seeing him as an asset in the coming election campaign and only 16% regarding him as a liability, giving him a net rating of plus 64 points.

But other party voters do not see him that way. Conservative voters give Mr Blair a net rating of minus 41 points and Liberal Democrats minus 14. In comparison Mr Brown is seen as a positive asset to the Labour party by Conservative voters, who give him a rating of plus 24, and Liberal Democrats, who rate him at a very healthy plus 43 points.”

Source: Blair's problem: floating voters prefer Brown

Monday, February 21, 2005

Jesse Jackson event: book now online!

Online booking is now up and running on the OBV site. Click here to secure your seats for the event. We’ve also got a flyer which can be printed off/emailed etc: event flyer

Which vote are you?

Which vote are you? Now more than ever various voting groups are vying for attention and influence. Working as I do for OBV I obviously campaign for the black vote but there is others…

We all know about the Countryside Alliance but as yet no party seems to explicitly target their voters. The student vote, the Muslim vote and the anti war vote have all been reported in recent days. Each group has a varying level of political organisation/ambition and it will be interesting to see what kind of success they achieve in the aftermath of the election.

Oh yes, the Guardian has a neat round up of their reporting on these various voting groups here.

Labour: A tale of two elections

Two sides of the coin in the following articles. One which argues for voting against Neo Labour and one that argues for voting them.

“There is a word that covers uncritical support, non-negotiable loyalty and blind faith. It is called fundamentalism. The rest of us have some hard thinking to do. The next few months will find us regaled by friends and foes at work and play, in print and on screen. They will threaten us with life under Michael Howard. Like a Soviet commissar without a clipboard, they will parrot the achievements of the past eight years in facts and figures by rote.”

Source: We cannot vote Labour

“…the duty of Labour party members is clear. We must work for another landslide. Then, if it does not happen, we will remind the new model army that - according to their own theory - the victory is Labour's, not Blair's.”

Source: Win this one for Labour, not for Blair

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Blogs: a warning to the left

Iain Duncan Smith it seems has spent his time not being Tory leader doing some reading and evolving his world view. He is to my knowledge one of the first politicians to click on the power of the Blog to influence politics. Talking today’s Guardian he details how Blogging can become the saviour for the right. Leftists take note; if you do not draw that conclusion fast what happened over there will happen over here.

Dan Rather, the anchor of CBS's evening news, was as big as TV stars come. Rather had fronted an attack on George Bush's Vietnam-era military service record - based on forged documents. The forgery was exposed when Bloggers focused on a superscripted "th" after a date in one of the documents. Experts confirmed that typewriters of the period could not have produced such lettering. Rather apologised and CBS is now desperately searching for someone else in whom viewers might put their trust.

This is just one of the ways in which the internet has strengthened the American right. Last year's Bush-Cheney campaign used information technology to build the largest ever volunteer political army. Visitors to were invited to join email lists that offered regular information on everything from gun ownership to school prayer. The Bush campaign collected 7.5 million email addresses and amassed 1.4 million volunteers.”

Friday, February 18, 2005

Black manifesto and Jesse Jackson event: an update

A slight correction on my earlier post about Jesse Jackson; the event on the 9th March is NOT the launch of the black manifesto it’s to rally the black vote. The black manifesto is scheduled for launch three days prior on the 6th March. The Jesse Jackson event will be a public rally with roughly 5/6 speakers (Simon Woolley, Jesse Jackson, Lee Jasper and others). I’ll post up info on how to reserve seats for it when I get them (at the time of writing I should receive the flyer by the end of the day).

Charles Kennedy throws down gauntlet

While the other two parties are engaged in a bidding war over race in the guise of immigration the Lib Dems have made a clever move:

“Earlier this week Charles Kennedy's party launched their 'manifesto for ethnic minorities' with a promise to make his party the natural home of the black vote. In an echo of Labour's six election pledges, the Lib Dems unveiled their 'top five policies for ethnic minorities.' The Lib Dems pledged to. A Single Equalities Act, Prioritise human rights and respect for international law, Create confidence in the immigration system, and target New Deal cash to improving job skills for ethnic minorities.”

You can download their BME manifesto here.

Blair: I will never attack Howard's Jewishness

Well I suppose its good news but the headline is kinda funny “Blair: I won’t be racist about Michael Howard (unless we’re talking about foreigners!)”. The bit that caught my attention was his line that he never saw the “anti-Semitic” posters. What next? These are the slogans I never read, the posters I never saw. The party I don’t believe in? He’s a stand up comedian in disguise.

“The Prime Minister sought to woo back the Jewish vote today as he pledged to "never, ever, ever'' attack Michael Howard, the Opposition leader, on his Jewishness. Tony Blair tried to distance himself from a recent series of "anti-Semitic'' Labour posters, claiming he had not personally seen them before they were released.”

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Shame on you, Mr Howard

The Tories health checks for immigrant’s sounds like their usual racism on the issue. It seems that I’m not alone in thinking that either:

“Rhon Reynolds, deputy chief executive of the African HIV Policy Network, said plans for immigrant health checks risked stigmatising African communities. Reynolds told Blink: "It's clearly racist. It's all about the election and trying to get votes on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society.

"We say 'shame on you, Mr Howard'. Reynolds was joined by Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow who said Howard's plan was based on prejudice rather than evidence.”

I doubt this condemnation will have much effect, sadly immigration will be the big battle ground of the coming election and the bidding war to be the harshest will be fierce.

Blunkett back in the frontline

Neo Labour really has a sense of humour. Not only do they think that David Blunkett is a good election asset they even think he can help with the fight against the BNP! Is it me or is it bizarre to have a “shameless authoritarian” calling on people not to vote for a fascist party?

“David Blunkett made his return to the political front-line in West Yorkshire and immediately urged the county's voters: "Don't let the British National Party win here." The former Home Secretary was speaking during a visit yesterday to Keighley, where BNP leader Nick Griffin is intending to stand against Labour MP Ann Cryer at the forthcoming General Election. Back on the campaign trail for the first time since the fall-out from his relationship with Spectator publisher Kimberly Quinn cost him his Cabinet job in December, he accused the far right party of seeking to exploit racial tensions in the town.”

That last line is classic pot calling the kettle black. How about your policies on immigration and asylum Dave?

Jesse Jackson to launch Black Manifesto

A coalition of BME orgs have got together and come up with a black manifesto for the coming election. I’ll post a copy of it as soon as I get my hands on it (I’ve seen early drafts but the final details are still being worked out) but a date for the diary (at least news wise) is the launch. It will be held on the 9th of March in Friends House, Euston (North London) by the much respected civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

“Reverend Jackson will jet in to mobilise Britain's black vote at a central London rally next month. The US civil rights hero agreed to headline the conference called 'the politics of power' on 9 March. Organisers Operation Black Vote (OBV) believe Rev Jackson will help Britain's black communities realise they could be the deciding factor in up to 70 marginal seats.”

Blink has the first report here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

When the party is over

Much has been made of the rise of the right over the past few years in both the UK and in mainland Europe. The popular theory is that the rise of the right is some how the fault of an ineffective left. Interesting stuff and something that is bound to appear in the coming election (the current bidding war over who can be the nastiest to immigrants/asylum seekers is something the “right” is sure to love). This article picks up on the theme:

New Labour has renounced the notion of left and right as irrelevant to modern political discourse. Alas, neither the Tories nor Bush seems to share that view. On the contrary, both at home and abroad, the Bush regime has signalled a major shift to the right, and it is difficult to imagine that not influencing the Conservatives here. New Labour's rejection of the old polarity was enshrined in the idea of the third way. Of course, it did not presage what it claimed at the time, namely a new way of looking at, and acting upon, the world: it was far more prosaic than that. In effect, it was a grand term for ducking any kind of ideological engagement with the right: split the difference or, alternatively, look the other way.

The result has been a government that has failed to define or hold any serious ideological ground. Indeed, in some areas such as crime, civil liberties and now immigration, it has deliberately behaved in the manner of a populist Conservative government. Nor is this true only in the domestic arena. Blair's support of Bush has been far more extreme than any previous Labour government might have displayed. Its support for the invasion of Iraq and the idea of military intervention in developing countries - in a nutshell, liberal imperialism - coupled with its increasingly open approval of Britain's imperial past, mark an abject retreat from an anti-colonial tradition. It is difficult to think of any sense in which, internationally, the prime minister even belongs to the centre left.

OBV unveils voter registration

You know the election is close when people are upping the drive to get people registered to vote. Today Operation Black Vote has started its pre-election campaign to get Black and Minority Ethnic people to register to vote. All you have to do is follow this link and OBV will do the rest. Too easy to not bother right?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Election 05

Welcome to my new blog. A little about me and the reason for the new blog; I work in politics (I can hear the booing and hissing!) in a campaign group called Operation Black Vote (click here to read more about OBV). I work on their education project Understanding Power but like everyone at OBV I keep up to date on various political happenings in both Westminster and at a grassroots community level.

The UK General Election at the time of writing is set forth May 5th but rumour has it that it will be earlier much earlier (two dates are circling at present April 21st but just come out is April 14th). My life is about to get insanely busy! That means I need a place to let off steam (i.e. rant), spread a little rumour and maybe even let a few secrets slip. I figure a blog is the way to go.

So...only a few weeks to go before Britains press/media throws itself into the political storm ahead and the country decides which bunch of (add your own expletives here) get elected.