Saturday, April 30, 2005

" I wouldn’t be voting Labour if it weren’t for Brown.”

Following on neatly from the entry below this article is worth a read. It attempts to start the new industry of understanding the Brown premiership! Good timing if you ask me...

"Mr Barrett clearly likes the Chancellor, and when Mr Brown had moved on I asked him if he thought he would make a better prime minister than the current one.

“Wouldn’t be hard, would it,” he said, grumpily.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Blair’s a liar. I wouldn’t be voting Labour if it weren’t for Brown.” The other apprentices nodded their assent. One day, Mr Brown will surely look back on these as his salad days." Link

Brown Puts Iraq in Election Spotlight

Something of a puzzler this; why would Brown return to the Iraq issue when it is leaving the news agenda and so close to polling day? A bid for an early leadership change perhaps? His idea to let parliament always have a say on whether the country goes to war could be construed as an attempt to woo the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party), laying the foundation for him moving on Blair sooner than most people think.

I've thought often these past few months that Blair will be gone alot sooner that most people think. Some people I know think Blair will be gone in about 12 to 18 months, I don't think it'll be that long; I think he'll be got rid of by the end of the year...

"Tony Blair's finance minister Gordon Brown reignited the unpopular Iraq war as an election issue on Saturday, just days before Britain's May 5 vote, by saying parliament should have the last say on military action.

Brown's comments came despite attempts by his center-left Labor party to steer its campaign onto what strategists see as vote-winning issues, including the economy and health." Link

Friday, April 29, 2005

Blair and Howard return to flagship policies

Looks like they've exhausted themselves and have decided to return to type.

"Labour and the Tories today sought to refocus on their core campaign messages, with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown highlighting their economic record and Michael Howard reminding voters of his five key pledges.

After a week dominated by the Iraq war and the publication yesterday of the attorney general's legal advice on military action, the prime minister and chancellor joined forces to unveil a new slogan of "Forward with Blair & Brown"." Link

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Advice reveals Lord Goldsmith's doubts

They really didn’t have much choice but to release it did they!?

“The government has broken with precedent and published the full text of the attorney general's March 7 legal advice to the prime minister, setting out Lord Goldsmith's cautious approach to the legality of the Iraq war.

Tony Blair authorised the disclosure on Thursday morning, after large parts of the documents were leaked to the media on Wednesday evening.” Link

You can read the full legal advice here. And Blair's response can be found here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Positives of going negative

Good comment on the current negative spiral the election is taking (well at least between the two bigger parties).

“It is the political sin everyone indulges in but nobody wants to admit to. And it looks like it is about to escalate in the closing days of the current election contest. Negative campaigning, what else, has been a feature of virtually every election in recent memory.” Link

Life in a glass house

Given all the things Alistair Campbell has pulled over the years I think it’s a bit disingenuous to act as if Lynton Crosby is worse. Two pees in a pod if you ask me…

Crosby's tactics represent a truly serious threat to the civility and robustness of British democracy and the way most politics is conducted in this country. It may be all downwards from here on.” Link

BNP tries scare tactics to win target voters

These people disgust me.

“The far-right British National party is claiming that Africans are being paid up to £50,000 to move into its number one target seat to protect the majority of a government minister. The party has poured activists from the south of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland into Barking, the east London seat that the children's minister, Margaret Hodge, holds with a 9,500 majority.

Voters are being canvassed by 50- to 60-strong teams of BNP activists and targeted with a series of inflammatory leaflets. One contains the spurious claim about African voters, while another suggests they are being promised new homes in the Thames Gateway. Yet another raises a scare about the rate of TB infection.” Link

OBV sponsoring TUC hustings?

Its funny how things work; a colleague mentioned that if support was needed for tonight’s Haringey TUC hustings (i.e. putting it up on our website, emailing throughout our networks etc) that’d be fine. We come into work today and find this! Apparently we’re “sponsoring” the hustings! A miscommunication or someone being a bit cheeky and using our name without asking? You decide!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Schoolkids rattle MP's cages

In better words than I could muster Lester Holloway's write up of yesterdays OBV youth hustings is very close to the mark. It was a high octane event with the young people (I really hate using that word!) taking nothing for granted and being relentless in their persuit of truth. I was inspired and thrilled to see such energy, insight and passion by a group [of people] commonally dimissed as apathetic. Patronising adults take note; young people do care about politics but not bullshit. You have been warned.

"Afterwards Yussif Osman, 15, from Henry Compton school in Fulham, west London, said: "Generally this was really useful. It's one thing hearing them talk on television but it's another thing to be there."

Santier Milson, also 15, from Holland Park school, in central London, was less impressed. "I didn't really respect the Labour person. I didn't respect anyone except the Dean [Ryan] guy.

"The Labour person especially was disrespectful because he wanted to talk but didn't want to listen to what anyone else had to say. He says we should make up our own minds but how are we supposed to make up our own minds when what they're telling us us is false?"" Link

Parties call for Blair impeachment

Not a snowballs chance in hell of succeeding but a predictable move none the less given the current news agenda...

"Leaders of the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties vowed on Tuesday to resume their bid to impeach Prime Minister Tony Blair over his "record of lies" in the run-up to war with Iraq.

While the impeachment move is more symbolic than realistic, the campaign by the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru is likely to keep the subject of Iraq and Blair's integrity at the top of the political agenda before the May 5 election." Link

Lib Dem candidate dumps agent!

Oh yeah, on a different note I've just heard that a Lib Dem candidate has just sacked their agent (yes that's right ten days before the election!). I've no idea which one as my source (who've been asked to be the candidates new agent) wont tell me! It'll probably come to nothing but it is quite drastic to dump your agent this close to polling day. I'm also wondering what the reason was...

Row over trust and Iraq continues

It's the story that just wont go away...

"The party leaders have continued their row over Iraq and the trustworthiness of the prime minister. In an interview with the Guardian, Tony Blair attacked the Conservative leader for branding him a "liar" and for calling on the electorate to "send him a message". The Labour leader said Howard's move was part of a negative campaign being directed by Australian electoral strategist Lynton Crosby." Link

Lib Dems promise to make Britain fairer

Sometimes the Lib Dems can look quite appealing but I can't shake this idea that if they get even a wiff of power they'll drop everything to get elected. Their star it appears is rising; time will tell whether they make it into Government with their "principals" (do political parties have principals?) intact.

"Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has said that the central effect of his party's policies would be to make Britain fairer.

Mr Kennedy outlined his party's promises to introduce a maternity income guarantee, reduce class sizes, scrap university tuition and top-up fees, introduce free long-term care for the elderly and axe the present council tax system." Link

Monday, April 25, 2005

The boundaries of race in Britain today

Very good article this.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Iraq returns as an election issue

Given the amount of money that "war" cost us as tax payers why shouldn't it (and British foreign policy regarding war, arms sales etc) be a major issue for the electorate?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bradford: hassle and confusion

Terry Rooney’s office is less than happy with me. I told them to send their candidate to a place in Bradford for a photo/press call and our campaign team turned up in a different place. My information was based on the itinerary and our press release on my desk yet reason isn’t something that seemed to resonate to them. It aint my fault if I’m in London and the team in Bradford make last minutes changes is it!?

Well, it’ll all be over in a few minutes and then the team are off to Oldham to catch all the candidates coming out of a meeting! That flurry of phone calls should be fun!

Anyway, i'm off to the UaF protest against the BNP broadcast tonight...thankfully the weather is looking good!

Hi-Tech Tories on the campaign trail

Blimey, that Michael Howard sure does have some amazing gadgetry stuff while out on the road! Check out his campaign bus:

“If you've ever wondered just how it is that Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin formulate on-the-fly policies regarding Council Tax while tirelessly gladhanding in different parts of country during the no-holds-barred slanging match which is otherwise known as a "pre-election campaign", then brace yourself for a comms kit overload.

According to a breathless press release just in, it's all down to a mobile "tactical" video conferencing unit aboard the Tory "Battle Bus" via which Howard communicates with his colleagues and advisors. Apparently, "the system gives Howard and his advisors the capability to meet for face-to-face consultation (and share data) even while the leader is on the road. Obviously, this is handy in terms of discussing strategy and tactics as campaign events unfold, and agreeing on decisions in real time."” Link

Busy, insanely busy

Our campaign bus is out on the road as I write. We’re co-ordinating from London to get press and candidates to the right places. It’s insane, absolutely insane!

So far the Tories have been extraordinary helpful (even though Michael Howard is due in Leeds in the next hour or so) giving us mobile numbers or getting back to us straight away. Labour haven’t been too bad either, phoning back and getting their people to the right place but the Lib Dems…well, it would be nice if I could get a person on the phone! What kind of party leaves no one at a campaign centre in case of last minute calls? They can’t be that short staffed can they!?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Kennedy fumbles economics (again)

Someone should really sit him down and make sure he’s got it straight in his head; Charles Kennedy has, yet again, gotten confused with how much money his party will save the “average family”!

“Charles Kennedy has done it again. After flying up to Aberdeen to visit a children's science centre in the three-way marginal Aberdeen South, he was again asked about local income tax. "The average family would be £540 a year better off," he said solemnly (the party's figure is £450). He did so in front of a 'pool camera' which will share television footage with all the networks.” Link

Election draws 3,500 candidates

3500 candidates? 170 political parties?? Who are these people!?

“More than 3,500 candidates from 170 political parties are standing in 5 May's general election. The three main parties are fielding almost full slates in England, Scotland and Wales, but are not opposing speaker Michael Martin's constituency.

The Lib Dems are also again standing aside in Wyre Forest where Dr Richard Taylor (Independent) defends his seat. UKIP is fielding 488 candidates; the Greens have 200, while 118 British National Party candidates are standing.” Link

The political divide: Reality versus “politics”

Yesterdays battle bus outing was characterised for me by two distinct realities. In Bethnal Green we had George Galloway showing one form of cowardice and Oona King (with Paul Boatang I might add) showed another. In Brixton we had real politics by real people.

The day started in Brixton; it went well, lot’s of press/media but more importantly some impassioned and very grounded political views from “ordinary” people. Simon got a live interview with ITN lunch time news and we nearly had a live feed with BBC news at one. Unfortunately a gang of idiots decided to change the news agenda with some typically negative and ill thought out “protest”.

After cutting a few places due to time constraints and lack of press/candidate interest we headed up to Brent for a brief interview and photo call with candidates from the Brent South and East constituencies. Sarah Tether was very nice in person and I caught up with the Conservative candidate who interestingly endorsed the Black Manifesto even though it contradicts the Tory policy on immigration! People will do anything for the votes it seems; even risk the anger of their leader or his Daily Mail readership.

After a quiet interlude at Brent it was off the Bethnal Green for the candidates debate/photo call with the Black Manifesto and to hand out more pledge cards. Man, that constituency is a joke right now. The fight between King and Galloway has got so dirty, so infantile that it’s beyond words. The worst moment (a part from a near fight, it seemed, breaking out between the Bethnal Green Tory candidate and Galloway) was seeing Galloway goad the other candidates then stand back and let his foot soldiers take up the fight (while he smiled gleefully like a school child happy about the fight he’d started). Also at this time I had someone from the King campaign telling me she was in a meeting and might not come across even though even I knew that she and Boatang were cowering 200 feet away in a blue people carrier! Amazing, both candidates were too scared to fight their own battles and used others to do it (or not do it as the case may be) for them.

The depressing thing is that this is all one of the reasons why “ordinary” people don’t vote; don’t engage in the political process. Its people like them (and the party machines that drives them) that make my job harder! Their actions make a mockery of the lives they claim to represent; the people I spoke to yesterday had actual concerns, real worries, real politics. Not this mindless, playground, cowardly bullshit.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Kennedy vs Paxman

It's into its final few minutes and apart from Charlie not looking to consistant in places I can't help but get irritated by Paxman. His position is one of importance and the guy just interrupts far too often; let the guy finish a sentence before asking another question dammit!

If he does this too much in Blair/Howard's interview it will leave some very odd feelings of sympathy in me!

Fame at last!

I don't know whether to feel proud or to laugh with self conscience amusement but the lovely people at Online Parliamentarian have just posted a short profile of me! Onward and upward!

Election 05: Now featured on the Times election blog!

If you look over at that ever growing list of election related urls you will notice a new addition. I asked the Times Online blog if they'd put my site up on their blog list and they said yes! Very nice of them indeed (unlike the Guardian who haven't even answered my request yet...).

And now for something slightly different...

Humour, always a good way to let off steam and get some perspective. I present to you something funny!

Battle Bus tour: London schedule

As promised below is the full London schedule for the campaign tour:

Battle Bus

Campaign Tour

19th April 2005

Constituency: Brixton

Time: 10.00am

Photo Call: Lambeth Town Hall

Brixton Hill



Constituency: Croydon

Time: 11.30am

Photo Call: Croydon Town Hall

Katherine Street


Constituency: Battersea

Time: 12.30pm

Photo Call: Battersea Arts Centre (formerly Battersea Town Hall)

Lavender Hill



Constituency: Hammersmith & Fulham

Time: 13.45pm

Photo Call: Hammersmith & Fulham Town Hall

King Street


W6 9JU

Constituency: Brent South/ East

Time: 14.45pm

Photo Call: Brent Town Hall

Forty Lane



Constituency: Bethnal Green/Bow

Time: 16.45pm

Photo Call: Intersection of Cambridge Heath Road/Whitechapel Road/Mile End, London

A moment to breathe…

Haven’t read a single thing about the election today; hence no comment/article/link. I decided to take a few minutes from a very hectic office to write this…things are busy which is good because that means things are going well.

My main concern right now is finalising next weeks youth hustings event but also we’re about to have a meeting about the campaign bus tour (which starts in London tomorrow) so i'm juggling a number of things. I should have some details about it later...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Things get bitter for the real Eastenders

Oona King must pay for supporting the war but I must admit I don’t relish the idea of Galloway being in power there. I doubt he’ll care much about the area beyond using them in his egotistical anti-war rant against the Labour party...

“King is interrupted by a passionate outburst from a young woman: 'We believed in you so much ... we were shocked by what you did on the war ... it was like you had been bringing up a child, feeding it and pampering it, and then when it had grown up you just shot it! I'm sorry, but this is how we felt you treated us.'” Link

Election 05: Fear is the key

It is utterly depressing that the only way people feel inclined to take charge of their interests is when they are scared into it. Unfortunately the parties are unscrupulous in using fear to get what they want so we’ve been conditioned to be this way. See the attacks on travellers, the Labour obsession with Michael Howard, Anti “Terror” laws etc for good examples of how the politics of fear has pervaded our political thought, discourse and action.

(Entire article posted because you’ll have to pay at some point for it)

“Fear works. The cloud of apathy that had descended on the British electorate is beginning to disperse. People who were thinking of not bothering to vote as recently as a week ago have now decided that they will make that trip to the polling booth - some for the Government, some against.

It is not that they have been induced by mouth-watering promises. Indeed, one of the most striking aspects of the past week, for people with long memories, is the fatalism with which the politicians and trade union leaders have accepted the death of Rover, once the pride of the British automobile industry. In the 1970s, the parties would have tripped over each other with their promises to find ways to keep the plant alive. Now, there is a resigned acceptance that a Government's power to control the market is limited.

But one political message that is getting through - whether it comes from Tony Blair or Michael Howard - is along the lines of "if you don't vote for me, something nasty will happen".

Nasty is the word Mr Blair used to denounce the Conservative campaign yesterday, along with "unscrupulous". He had in mind the statements made by the Tories about immigration, crime, and, most recently, about the MRSA superbug.

Hundreds of thousands of women, in every marginal seat in the country, have been sent letters signed by Mr Howard warning that if they go into an NHS hospital, they face a "shocking" risk of catching an infection. "My own family knows how devastating the consequences can be - we lost my mother-in-law to MRSA three years ago," the letter added.

Each letter includes a precise and very alarming local statistic. In Stroud, for example - where Labour is defending a 5,039 majority - voters were told that "last year alone, 193 people contracted MRSA in your local NHS Trust". This has come as a shock to the Cotswold and Vale hospital trust, who say they do not know of any patients contracting an MRSA infection in Stroud general hospital last year.

The Tories put that discrepancy down to an unfortunate typing error: the letter should have said "trusts" not "trust". "That was a mistake and I'm very sorry we made that mistake," Mr Howard said yesterday. But if you are searching for a deliberate lie, the Tories say, you should look at the campaign Labour launched this weekend, with cabinet ministers popping up around the country collecting signatures for a "Keep the NHS Free" petition - which implies that healthcare will not be free if the Tories are elected.

That is a deliberate misreading of Tory policy, they say. "There is no question of the Conservative Party introducing new charges into the NHS. No NHS patient will have to pay for their operation," the Shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, insisted.

What the Tory health manifesto actually said was: "Private patients have paid their taxes like everyone else. If they choose to go private and free up NHS space for other patients, they should not be punished but helped. If an independent hospital charges more for an operation than the NHS, patients will be entitled to 50 per cent of the NHS cost as a contribution towards their bill."

The Tories claim that they are simply increasing choice for NHS patients. But the Health Secretary, John Reid, says if the wealthy start paying to speed up their operations, partly out of NHS funds, those who cannot pay will be made to wait. He says that calling this "choice" is like telling someone going to Liverpool that they need not pay the fare if they can't afford it, because they can always walk instead.

Other things Mr Blair may have had in mind when he used the word "nasty" include Mr Howard's comments on immigration, his attacks on the Human Rights Act and his remarks about Gypsies. The Tory leader returned to the subject yesterday. He claimed: "The so-called Human Rights Act has allowed arsonists to escape expulsion from school, killers to win the right to pornography in prison, and travellers to set up illegal encampments in defiance of planning laws."

Mr Howard insists he has a right to raise these issues. "I'll carry on talking about fair play even though I'm attacked for it because I will never be stopped from saying what I know is right." Labour claims that he is using misleading images to whip up fear. Mr Blair might also have thought that the Tory cinema advertisement, in which he is depicted as a grinning, untrustworthy and none too bright, was "nasty". But Labour has replied in kind with a short cinematic biography of Mr Howard, which suggests that he is divisive and uncaring.

Conventional wisdom is that voters are put off by "negative" campaigning. But that is not what has been happening, according to the latest poll for this newspaper. Like other polls, it shows a slight shift in Labour's favour, but by far the most significant statistical shift is that 60 per cent of those sampled say they are "absolutely certain" to vote on 5 May, compared with 49 per cent a week ago. Apparently, the electorate is being jolted out of its apathy by scary slogans.

So how does this leave the nice guy in the middle, who makes it his unique selling point that he doesn't do "yah-boo"?

Charles Kennedy should have had a brilliant week. As Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have demonstrated in the past five years, there is nothing like becoming a father to boost a politician's popularity. Unfortunately for Mr Kennedy - whether it was from sleep deprivation due to a squalling infant or just a lapse of concentration - he spoiled his week with a toe-curlingly embarrassing display of how not to present your showcase policy.

Mr Kennedy had put the case for replacing the council tax - which would benefit those on low incomes, though, he conceded, it would hit the better paid. He was asked what level of income a family would have to be on to lose. Mr Kennedy replied: "You are talking in the region of twen... twent... twen ... twen... yuh, I mean if you [pause] take [pause] a double-income... say a double income couple, uh, 20,000 each that's what you are talking about, 40,000 ..."

The encouraging news for the Liberal Democrats is, perhaps, that anyone cares what they are saying. Previously, they enjoyed the luxury of being able to put up any policy they liked. Voters were never going to be frightened off because no one expected to see them in government.

Unless the polls are badly wrong, the Lib Dems are on course to emerge with the largest number of MPs that they or their predecessors, the Liberals, have had for 70 years. That is why they have to be careful what they say. No doubt Mr Kennedy's advisers have already told him that if he wants to be the voice of reassuring sanity in a slanging match, he should get a proper night's sleep before he tries to tackle complex questions.” Link

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Student vote 'to swing 27 seats'

Let’s see now, the Muslim vote is reckoned to be 50 seats of importance, the Black vote is 70 and the student vote is apparently worth 27 seats. I wonder how many of these different voting groups overlap, or if they present a significant force in the coming election?

“The student vote will be crucial to deciding 27 key seats in the general election, says the Liberal Democrat president Simon Hughes. Promoting the party's plan to scrap tuition fees, Mr Hughes said student voters were swinging to the Lib Dems. "There is increasing interest among students on issues such as fees and Iraq - and all the polls show we're their party of choice," he said.

The Tories also back scrapping fees - and Labour promises increased grants.” Link

Friday, April 15, 2005

Lib Dems 'green' manifesto claims rubbished

I was expecting this from the Greens. The claim that the Lib Dems are the greenest party is more than a little audacious.

“On the day the Lib Dems launch their environmental manifesto, Greens have slammed the LibDems' record in office on local authorities and in Scotland, warning voters: "Lib Dems use Green rhetoric to get into office, then systematically exploit their position by supporting road building schemes, incinerators, airport expansion and even backing GM crops."

Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, Green Party principal speaker and Green Euro-MP for the South East comments: "The Lib Dem record in office - locally and in Scottish Parliament - is a catalogue of broken promises and unravels their manifesto's 'green thread' from top to bottom." Link

Online parliamentarian

Described as

“An e-democracy informal on-line journal, blogging the politics of new media networks and communications.

It is read by 1 Deputy Minister, 3 MSPs, 5 Parliamentary Assistants, 7 Civil Servants, 2 Academics, 1 Editor, 0 Journalists, Bloggers who surf in and wonder where they are, oh, and a few other supernumeriaries of the teledemocracy community.

It blogs technology issues, in relation to electronic democracy and digital inclusivity and is published online regularly, except during the summer recess.”

Online parliamentarian is a useful site for keeping up to date with the Westminster world (and beyond). You can read more here.

Rover and the electoral implications for Labour

Just noticed this update. The interesting part of the very thin press release is this:

“Sources said the government is prepared to offer up to 150 mln stg.” Link

Not sure how that is going to work because I'm sure that the UK is bound by European trade laws which means it cannot re-nationalise the company...but then this may be just be some spin to avoid an electoral fallout in some marginal seats.

An end to first past the post?

Many thanks to the Make My Vote Count blog for bringing this to my attention; it appears that a change to the electoral process is being looked into by Labour. I’m sure we’ve heard this all before but it’s still holds some interesting prospects for the future of our democracy.

“The Government admitted last night that it had secretly begun a review into an alternative to the current first-past-the-post system, the “unfairness” of which threatens to be laid bare in the election.

The disclosure represents a significant shift in Labour’s position on how MPs are elected and could yet herald the introduction of a similar voting system to those in place for the Scottish and European parliaments and the Welsh Assembly.” Link

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Black vote campaigners hit the road

I'm sure to be at one of the locations so if you want to come and meet me you can!

“Activists plan to tour the country spreading the message that Black voters possess the power to decide who wins the general election.

Operation Black Vote (OBV) kick off the Roadshow on Tuesday, visiting areas of London with high black and Asian populations. They plan to visit the London neighbourhoods of Brent, Brixton, Tottenham and Tower Hamlets. On Wednesday the campaigners will tour several cities and towns including Luton, Birmingham, Bradford and Oldham.” Link

Election 05: making it in the blogsphere?!

Time for a small pat on the back for me. I've just entered my election blog into this blog search engine and found it appears in some interesting places. I knew about it being linked on my friend's blog but it has also appeared as a source here and even made it overseas to this blog as one to watch!

If any of the people who write them are reading I would just like to say a big thank you; this blog is a fun but increasingly big part of my blogging time. Hopefully if things go well it will achieve greater exposure and not end with the election (i've an idea for a new politics blog to take over were this will leave off on May 6th).

Kennedy launches Lib Dem manifesto

Today Charles Kennedy launched the Liberal Democrats manifesto. I must say from the picture of him in the Guardian I wonder if he has the energy (or control over his alleged drink problem) to get through this campaign. You can read the full manifesto here.

“A tired-looking Charles Kennedy launched the Liberal Democrat manifesto this morning, promising tax cuts for 15 million families and the phased withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. Mr Kennedy, whose first child was born on Tuesday, said his party's tabloid-sized manifesto was "based on fairness and opportunity, dignity for older people, real opportunity for our children and a fair deal for families".

"It is a fully costed and affordable programme to create a fairer Britain. The Liberal Democrats are the real alternative at this election.” Link

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Electoral reform groups welcome Labour manifesto

I guess this should be titled should we trust them? The pledge to review the electoral process in this country with proportional representation in mind is very interesting. The more votes reflect the actual desires of the electorate the more power the electorate has. I agree in part with Nina when she says:

Nina Temple, the director of Make Votes Count, said: "The blandness of the commitment is irrelevant - its relevance is that it was there at all.” Link

But I can’t help wonder if there is more to it than that. The Lib Dems under Kennedy have said that they aren’t interested in forming a coalition government with Labour so Labour don’t even have the safety net of bringing in PR and still being power with the Lib Dems in future. Further to this why should we trust Labour at all given its history of deceit and manipulation?

The Kennedy blog

Well, ok it's not actually written by him but by those on the campaign trail with him. It looks simple and nice (although I'm considering moving over to using Wordpress so maybe i'm a little bias!) and you can find it here.

Cherie helps Oona's fight

Cherie Blair gets down and dirty in the fight to save Oona Kings political life:

“Cherie Blair urged Labour voters to give anti-war campaigner George Galloway a "bloody nose" in the general election. In a rare foray into frontline party politics, the Prime Minister's wife called on residents in Bethnal Green and Bow to help sitting MP Oona King defeat Mr Galloway.” Link

Blair launches Labour's manifesto

An interesting document it seems; no picture of Blair on the cover and a promise from him not to serve a full term? “Vote for me and I’ll leave!” Blair was heard not to say!

“Labour's manifesto has had a painful birth, with reports that the chancellor was angry about being excluded from the process and speculation about whether it would live up to its billing as "unremittingly New Labour". The final draft appears to represent a compromise between Mr Blair's vision of greater public sector choice and Mr Brown's more traditionally social democratic approach both making an appearance.

Mr Blair's influence can be seen behind the sections entitled "the New Labour case" at the top of each of the booklet's 10 chapters, setting out the argument for continued reform. Mr Brown, meanwhile, is understood to have overseen the economic and education chapters and personally written the "New Labour case" on the economy.” Link

You can read the full manifesto here (pdf file).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A little light relief?

Without doubt this has to be the burning issue of this election, no, our times; our eon even!

Blair will step down 'sooner rather than later'

I’ve been thinking the same thing the last few days. A colleague of mine thinks Blair will stay for a good while if he gets a decent majority but I can’t see that happening. If I was a betting man I’d lay money on Labour getting no more than a 60 seat majority and Blair going (or being got rid of) within the first six months.

“Robin Cook has predicted Tony Blair will stand down as Labour leader to make way for Gordon Brown "sooner rather than later" if Labour wins a third term. Former foreign secretary Cook, who has been tipped for a return to the Cabinet if Brown does become prime minister, said the chancellor's new central role in the election campaign would have "profound political consequences".” Link

Monday, April 11, 2005

Tories launch election manifesto

Exhumed from his tomb Michael Howard today launched the Tory manifesto…you know I find it hard to get interested let alone excited about this one…

“Conservative leader Michael Howard has launched his programme for government with a strong attack on Tony Blair. The Tory leader said at 63 he could hang up his boots and enjoy his retirement but he wanted to "battle for Britain", the country he loved. Mr Howard urged people to read the Tory manifesto and "see how we've changed". He warned that re-electing Labour would mean "five more years of smirking". ” Link

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Immigration (again)

And so it goes, the “debate” around immigration continues and now even Tories are attacking the, um, Tories (and no I don’t mean rightwing Labour either!).

“Mr Howard's proposal that parliament set an annual cap on the number of migrants allowed into the country each year, which would involve pulling out of the UN convention on refugees, was dismissed however by his former Home Office colleague.

Mr Wardle, who had invited himself to a Labour party press conference, said that "it almost defies belief that Mr Howard is standing before people and presenting this as a policy proposal". "It is the most half baked, incoherent package imaginable. It shows he is utterly unsuited for the position of prime minister."” Link

Immigration heads election battle

Immigration is the Tories strongest card (according to most polls) so it’s of no surprise that they keep banging the xenophobe drum. I would like to hope that Neo Labour won’t take the bait but given Blair’s panic over the issue I won’t waste my time.

“Tory leader Michael Howard will accuse Tony Blair of "pussyfooting" around immigration problems as the poll campaign resumes after a two-day pause. Mr Howard will say ignoring the issue only plays into the hands of bigots.

But Labour will hit back with help from a Conservative ex-minister, who calls the Tory plans "the most half-baked, incoherent package imaginable. The Lib Dems are launching their battle bus, with leader Charles Kennedy promising to fight a positive campaign.” Link

Saturday, April 09, 2005

'Rent-a-crowds' ensure nothing is left to chance

I’ll spell it out because obviously some people (read party strategists) don’t understand; the whole point of elections and campaigning is that your candidates/party is meant to go out onto the street and engage directly with the voters. They are meant to be confronted with all manner of uncomfortable situations because for the majority of us that is what life can be like. They have to do this to show that they aren’t alien from us, are prepared to see what our lives are like and what they can then do if we choose to elect them to serve us. Clear? Apparently they think that you run an election with nothing but pretence, marketing and bullshit.

“When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown launched an election campaign poster this week in front of an enthusiastic crowd, some members of their audience may have felt they had heard it all before. The politicians' words may have been familiar, and so were some of the faces of the background crowd. The Virgo family - Rachel and Benjamin, and their young children, Gilbert, five, Theo, three, and Albany one - were stationed behind the Chancellor at Thursday's poster launch.

But Mrs Virgo and Albany were also in the background crowd at the unveiling a month ago of another campaign poster by Messrs Blair and Brown, prompting accusations that Mr Blair was using a rent-a-crowd to falsely give the impression he was meeting ordinary people.” Link

Friday, April 08, 2005

Will Rover collapse hurt Labour?

It’s quite possible that it will; some of the constituencies near the plant have a high number of Muslim voters who are expected to vote from an anti war position. Couple that with the 15,000 or so workers on the verge of losing their jobs and you have electoral problems if you’re the Labour party.

Whether they feel Labour did enough to help them will be a factor in whether they vote against them but then who they vote for will have to make some pretty big promises too.

“The sight of one of Britain's greatest manufacturing plants collapsing with thousands of job losses is about the last image Labour would want to take into a general election campaign.

It is particularly dangerous for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who have put the economy at the centre of their campaign. Their boasts about the low unemployment and economic stability their government has embedded may well ring hollow in the ears of those affected by the closure.” Link

Visa restrictions to Nigerians?

An interesting piece of information this; apparently the Government is set to announce this lunch time restrictions to Nigerians getting visas to enter the UK. BBC News London looks like they will be picking it up (questions about voting numbers of Nigerians and what constituencies they’re primarily being pertinent). And I wouldn’t be surprised is the anti-racism lobby gets drawn into it if the story goes anywhere.

If I hear anymore I’ll let you know…

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Crisis talks over immigration

The idea of Blair getting into a blind panic doesn’t surprise me at all. Once, long ago, a friend detailed to me a conversation his father had had with Lord Falconer about a phone conversation he’d with Blair a few days after the 97 election victory. In it Blair was in blind panic on the phone imploring Falconer (desperately I might add) to help him because he didn’t have a clue how to run a government. Apparently he was so obsessed with winning that he never thought through what would happen once in power.

Of course, if true, this would explain some of the stories about how Labour still had a campaign/opposition party mindset for the first few years of running the Government.

From what I’ve heard (from people who’ve worked with him or known him via others) and what I’ve read (in particular a book about Alistair Campbell) Blair really doesn’t know his own mind, he is not as strong as he is made out and a lot of “his” views are essentially made up by others.

“Tony Blair has been in crisis talks with Labour strategists amid signs that voters' worries about immigration could derail his election campaign. The Prime Minister has been told that the public is simply not listening to his message on the issue and that tough Tory policies are striking a chord.

In a further sign of disarray, Mr Blair is said by senior government sources to have been forced to bring back Gordon Brown to help the election campaign because he was in “absolute panic" about the state of Labour's performance.” Link

Do you want Blair/Brown to run country?

Maybe it’s just me but I thought this election was between political parties not between members of one party?

“Tony Blair gave his strongest indication yet that Gordon Brown will keep his job as Chancellor if Labour wins the election. The Prime Minister hailed his leadership rival as the 'best Chancellor for this country for several decades'. He added: 'He has done a fantastic job managing the economy. His record speaks for itself - so you would want that record to continue, really.'” Link

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

OBV unveils election webpage

Operation Black Vote would not live up to its name if it did not have a dedicated election page. It’s now live and filled with relevant information for the black voter in the coming election.

“The May 2005 General election offers Briton’s Black communities the greatest opportunity to make a substantial impact in this electoral debate.

Politically we hold the balance of power in over 70 seats, that could be the difference between success and failure for all three leaders. With that clout we must engage as never before. ‘Power concedes nothing without demands’, and in the Black Manifesto: equality in our life time’, OBV and a coalition of Black organisations and faith groups have set out an agenda for change."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

UK General Election announced


“The general election will be held on 5 May, Tony Blair has formally announced. Speaking after asking the Queen to dissolve Parliament next week, Mr Blair said Labour had a "driving mission" for a third term in office.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders pre-empted the announcement by starting nationwide tours of key seats. Michael Howard accused Mr Blair's government of "losing the plot" while Charles Kennedy said he would focus on people's hopes, not their fears.” Link

Monday, April 04, 2005

Another very useful election site

This site is truly amazing; it’s got all kinds of sites on there (including me!). Link

Protocol of calling an election

Something that not everyone knows is what the procedure is for calling an election. This article does a good job of giving an insight into the arcane world of Parliament:

“When Mr Blair goes to see Her Majesty, she could refuse the dissolution of Parliament and tell him "Labour has a huge majority and if you can't form a Government I'm going to ask that nice Jack Straw to do so instead."

Technically she could, but she won't be inviting the Foreign Secretary and Blackburn MP, or even Chancellor Gordon Brown in for a chat over their future. For the convention is that when the Prime Minister decides to call a General Election, the Queen dutifully agrees.” Link

“Respectful” lull in electioneering: cynical excuse to re-establish strategy?

I’m not religious so my thoughts on this may offend (you have been warned!) but it occurs to me that the Pope dying may be just what the Tories need right now. With the whole Howard Flight situation getting more and more entrenched Michael Howard needs a few days with different headlines. Neo Labour may of scored a short term victory with the Flight sting operation (apparently a result of their Operation Black Watch) but the Tories had real momentum up until Flight-gate.

Perhaps a death of a Pope is useful for all party strategists to pause for thought, re-establish themselves and their agenda?

Friday, April 01, 2005

We need race minister to fight inequality

What will probably be one of the most controversial parts of the Black Manifesto is the demand for a Minister for Race:

“Campaigners yesterday called for the introduction of a race minister as they launched a manifesto demanding equality for black and ethnic minority communities. The initiative, organised by Operation Black Vote (OBV), is designed to push race-related issues higher up the agenda in the run-up to the election.

It wants a race minister, equivalent to the existing women's minister. Karen Chouhan, of the 1990 Trust, said: "Tackling racism at a cabinet level, along with the other measures, will be a quantum leap forward."” Link