Archive for the 'David Cameron' Category

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English votes for English laws (EV4EL) – the question is whether Cameron is able to deliver

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Election pledges won’t count after the Lisbon Treaty experience

In 1787, a group of Americans came together and wrote a whole new constitution for their country from scratch in the space of four hot and humid months.  Two and a quarter centuries later, it’s still going strong.  True, they didn’t have the complicating factors of histories and traditions or established institutions that the UK has now but they did have to contend with other barriers to success, perhaps at least as high.  There is absolutely no reason why Westminster cannot resolve the West Lothian Question between now and April, if it has a mind to.

That David Cameron has placed that question centre-stage, linked to the issue of greater fiscal autonomy for the Scottish parliament, is both just and prudent.  The unfairness giving rise to the question has lingered far too long and tensions within the Union should be reduced if some parts are not given preferential treatment.  On the other hand, linking the two issues – when the Scottish one is a matter of honour for all three leaders – does as much as possible to ensure it’ll be addressed.

What is lacking is urgency.  Considering how little else parliament has to do in what remains of its time, that’s not good enough.  Never mind a draft bill; Westminster should pass a full Act by the dissolution.  That is the only guarantee that it won’t renege on the vow made by Cameron, Miliband and Clegg – a suspicion Scots could justifiably hold were nothing done beforehand given the experience of 1979.  After the more recent ‘cast iron’ promise Cameron made on the Lisbon Treaty , many might also be sceptical of his word if nothing’s done beforehand having had the chance to do so (unlike Lisbon, it has to be said, where Cameron couldn’t meaningfully deliver).

Dealing with the Question now also removes the possibility that a future different government might choose not to act.  After all, no parliament can bind its successor (nor, for that matter can any group of party leaders bind their current parliament without its consent), and one of the reasons the Question has lain unaddressed since 1999 is that it wasn’t in Labour’s interest to do so.  Already, Miliband is making sceptical noises but that shouldn’t stop the government putting legislation forward.  Much louder noises may come from behind the PM if he doesn’t.

What form that legislation should take is another matter – though determining that is precisely what parliament’s supposed to be there for.  The simplest solution of banning MPs from voting on matters that are not applicable to their constituents brings its own problems.  For example, there’d be multiple majorities in the Commons, potentially leading to gridlock if a government had an overall majority, so could decide how to raise the money to be spent on a service but not how to spend it.  It would also mean that England would still share its government with the UK, unlike any other component country of the UK: the same ministers (some perhaps from Wales or Scotland), and the same civil service.

As a first and immediate step, that might still be the best option and perhaps the only one that could be agreed by April next year, preferably with all-party support but by majority if necessary.  Nonetheless, it would still be a second-class resolution and would do little to address the disparity in the distribution of power and spending within England.  Some favour a full English parliament (and, presumably, government), but that would look too much like duplication with Westminster, leading to inevitable rivalry.

Regional parliaments and governments, on the other hand, with similar powers to that enjoyed by Holyrood, would bring greater equality in spending as well as (one would hope) more responsive government and greater diversity of policy.  Some would argue that such a move would merely produce local fiefdoms to be controlled by one party or another but the nature of politics is that opposition always finds a way.  Labour dreamed of Scotland being theirs forever, likewise London.  At some point there’ll be a non-Labour First Minister of Wales.

That, however, is for the future.  Now is the time to make good on the promise to Scotland, and to make good the democratic deficit to England.

David Herdson



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Will Parliament next Saturday end Cameron’s Premiership?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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The knee-jerk response to a YES vote?

A couple of days ago the Sunday Times reports (££) Informal soundings have been taken about recalling parliament on Saturday, the first Saturday sitting since the Falklands War, if there is a “yes” victory.

I know there’s been a lot of debate on pb and elsewhere, about David Cameron resigning in the event of Scotland voting to secede from the United Kingdom, whilst I’ve been in the camp, that he wouldn’t resign, I’m ever more convinced it won’t be his decision.

As a keen studier of history because history has a tendency to repeat itself, I wonder if we do have a Saturday debate, the Opposition will force a vote, which effectively becomes a vote of no confidence in David Cameron, as happened in the Norway Debate of 1940, which forced Neville Chamberlain out as Prime Minister. Chamberlain won the vote but with a quarter of his party abstaining or voting against the Government, his position became untenable.

The Sunday Times report, there’s enough Tory MPs to trigger a vote of no confidence in Cameron, and probably 100 would vote against Cameron, which means some could vote against Cameron in any vote.

Will we have a Leo Amery des nos jour, and utter to the Prime Minister

I have quoted certain words of Oliver Cromwell. I will quote certain other words. I do it with great reluctance, because I am speaking of those who are old friends and associates of mine, but they are words which, I think, are applicable to the present situation. This is what Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”. 

If we do have a Norway debate moment, then well, who will be the modern day Sir Winston Churchill to Cameron’s Neville Chamberlain? I wonder if this scenario favours William Hague, widely liked across the House, experienced and strong character to take the country through a very difficult phase. At the time of writing, you can get 40/1 as next Prime Minister.

 

TSE



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Will the polling on air strikes against ISIS persuade Dave to intervene?

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

August is supposed to be the silly season,  but for the second consecutive August, it appears Britain may intervene militarily in the Middle East.

Last year, parliament ended that expedition before it even began. But in today’s Telegraph, Cameron writes 

Isil poses a direct and deadly threat to Britain. The poisonous extremism on the march in Iraq and Syria affects us all – and we have no choice but to rise to the challenge.

YouGov over the last few days have been tracking how the British public feel about military action against ISIS, the trend is in favour of those who approve of the RAF partaking in action against ISIS.


How will intervention effect domestic politics?

I know in the past, the SNP have mentioned the 2003 invasion of Iraq being another reason for Independence. Military intervention could affect the Indyref, as any military intervention in Iraq is bound to bring up memories and a re-examination of our invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, as the polling doesn’t favour the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Over the last few days on PB there are those who also think the rise of ISIS will lead to a boost for UKIP. I’m not so sure how you harness the rise of ISIS into support for UKIP.

TSE



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David Herdson says “Britain’s EU exit is now when, not if”

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

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The Juncker class are the problem not the solution

The nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as next EU Commission President has moved Britain substantially closer to leaving the Union.  On the one hand, Britain was marginalised in a process that has traditionally been built on consensus; on the other, the attitude of the Euro-elite – including Juncker – to the European Parliament election results has been to ignore the opposition to the EU direction of travel and carry on as normal.

The justification from Juncker and his allies is a simple one: his party group won the election and therefore as their nominee, he has the right to the job.  It’s an argument the Socialists back, though as the only other group who could benefit from it, their support is hardly disinterested.  Even so, they’re both wrong.  The EPP did not win the election.  They might have ended with most seats but were 155 seats short of a majority; in terms of dynamics, they went rapidly backwards.  If the leaders were really taking account of the EP results, they would nominate someone pledged to reform rather than more of the same but it’s clear that’s not what they want.

Consequently, both the fact of Juncker’s nomination and the reasons for it mean that Cameron’s stated objective of achieving EU reform is now very visibly more difficult than ever.  Not only will there be little support for it from the Commission or many other leaders but it will be a tougher domestic sell too: if he can’t win this fight, how can he win the much more difficult one he’d like to take on?  It’s a question UKIP will no doubt keep raising and which could well make a small but not insignificant impact at the 2015 election – which of course Cameron has to win if negotiations are even to start.

There have always been three likely medium-term routes to UK exit.  The first is that a Cameron-led government negotiates but fails to convince the UK electorate in the ensuing referendum; the second is that such a government fails to even win an agreement it can itself back (or which the Tory Party and MPs force it to refuse to back), and so supports Out; the third is that Labour form the next government, for both the Tories and the country move to even more Eurosceptic positions during that parliament and then for the Tories return to office in 2020 with EU exit on their platform.  All three have become more likely these last few days to the extent that I’d make it odds-on that Britain leaves sometime within the next decade.

The analysis, vision and principles that Cameron laid out in his speech on the EU in January 2013 remain as valid now as then, particularly his explicit rejection of the ‘ever closer union’ commitment.  What’s clear is that the European Council has, by nominating someone so bound up in and committed to the EuroProject as Juncker, chosen to reject both that alternative route and the surge of opinion across the EU opposed to the status quo that the Juncker class represents.

If that is so, then there doesn’t seem any obvious reason why they should change their mind or attitude after 2015.  As such, reform may be all but impossible.  In which case, British exit is merely a question of when, not if.

David Herdson



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The Cameron-EU stand-off over Jean-Claude Juncker: If the PM wins it would be a major coup

Friday, June 27th, 2014

But if he fails then where does that leave Dave?

Until now the row over Jean-Claude Juncker has made Cameron look increasingly isolated in Europe.

    What’s not generally appreciated in the UK is that in most other EU countries the recent European Parliament elections were presented as being about choosing the EU president as well as MEPs.

Each of the main party groups in Brussels went through a process of selecting a candidate and in the run up to polling day there was a series of TV debates. In a number of member states there was extensive polling.

Back in April I took part in a Euro TV discussion on the elections and was taken aback by questions about which of the contenders would go down best with UK voters. I hadn’t realised that this was how the process was being seen.

As it turned out the EPP – European People’s Party – came out with most seats in the voting and Jean-Claude Juncker had been selected earlier as their man. The EPP, of course, was the grouping that the UK Conservative party used to belong to. That ended following Cameron becoming Tory leader.

It is against this background that the current row between Cameron and the rest needs to be seen and why, I believe, this has been such a tough fight.

Today’s Telegraph story alleging that Juncker has drinking problems is certainly well timed and adds force to Cameron’s case.

If he wins and Juncker doesn’t get the job it will be huge victory for Cameron on a scale greater than the famous veto of December 2011. If he doesn’t then it is hard to predict the consequences.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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One Year To Go: How do Dave and Ed compare to their predecessors

Friday, May 30th, 2014

With one year to go, I thought it would be useful to track how Ed and Dave compare to their predecessors one year before a General Election. I’ve been using the ratings from Ipsos-Mori that go back nearly forty years and are considered to be the Gold Standards of leader ratings.

 

 

Looking at the Leader of the Opposition net ratings, sometimes the figures speak for themselves. Only Leaders of the Opposition  with net positive ratings one year have gone onto become Prime Minister and only Michael Foot, generally regarded as the worst Leader of the Opposition since the war, polls worse than Ed while William Hague, Michael Howard and Neil Kinnock had better ratings than Ed and didn’t become Prime Minister.

Whilst we do live in a more cynical, anti-politician era, so that may explain Ed’s ratings, that said, in the same point of the electoral cycle, David Cameron was polling a net plus 23, nearly 50 points ahead of where Ed is today, and that was only five years ago.

Moving onto Prime Ministers ratings, it is a bit harder to discern a pattern.

The most amusing thing I found was Dave’s rating was exactly the same as Tony Blair’s rating in his first term,both in net terms, and the individual figures, 39 positive, 52 negative, David Cameron truly is the heir to Blair.

Looking at the leads the PM enjoys over the Leader of the Opposition, the longer a PM stays in power, ultimately they become less popular, but even then they do recover. The fact Jim Callaghan had a lead over Margaret Thatcher should give Ed some succour, but will there be an equivalent to the Winter of Discontent?

Before Labour supporters get too despondent, Ed does enjoy some advantages that his predecessors do not, such as the electoral geography favouring Labour, and the great known unknown of UKIP which could make the 2015 General Election like no other.

TSE



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It looks like mentioning Ed’s name is no longer a drag for Labour

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

 

As part of their polling for The Times, YouGov asked “Imagine that at the next election the party leaders remained David Cameron for the Conservatives, Ed Miliband for Labour and Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats. How would you vote?”

Normally they ask “If there were a general election tomorrow, which party would you vote for? Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish Nationalist/Plaid cymru, some other party, would not vote, don’t know”

Now the first thing that caught my eye was the fact that the Tories are ahead with YouGov for the first time since March 2012.

Sadly for my bets with Paddy Power, this can’t be considered a Tory lead/crossover with YouGov.

The changes from the normal question conducted at the same time for the Sun using the same panel (sample size of both is the same) is Con plus 2, and Labour minus 1.

The most interesting finding is that mentioning Ed’s name has no major change for Labour, mentioning Dave’s name is a boost for the blues, but well within the margin of error.

My only caveats are that is only one poll, and in the past when Ed’s name was a drag, it was generally when Labour were polling in the 40s and had leads of around double digits so there maybe much less opportunity for drag available as Labour’s support has fallen since then.

 TSE



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Cameron’s big 2015 debate gamble: to play or to sabotage

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

The 5-3-2 proposal is unworkable and looks like a wrecking attempt

There’s no doubt that David Cameron looks like someone who wants to avoid the kind of leaders’ debates that dominated the 2010 election.  He’s on record as saying that he’d prefer a different format, though the lack of engagement in the process to design them suggests no great urgency on his or his party’s part.

Indeed, the proposal to have three debates – one between him and Ed Miliband, one with those two and Nick Clegg, and one with those three, Nigel Farage and the Green leader (who may change between now and then given their biennial leadership elections) – could have been designed to elicit a rejection from at least one other major party and so throw the onus for a lack of agreement on to whoever rejected it.  Except that’s not where the blame would end up; for one thing, it’s too transparent, for another, it runs against the rules on fair coverage and for a third, it wouldn’t preclude a more sensible suggestion being put forward.

While the Lib Dems are still recognised as a ‘major party’ for Westminster elections, it’s not going to be practical to exclude them from any of the debates.  Unless Ofcom downgrade their status based on polling and other election results – something highly unlikely given that they were recently granted that status for the Euro-election where historically they do worse than in the generals – the expectation has to be that they’ll be there in all of them.

Similarly, the idea that UKIP should only be granted the same status as the Greens opens up a whole different kettle of fish.  The SNP contested the right for the last elections to exist due to their exclusion and while they lost that case, that was partly down to legal tactics and partly because the SNP was clearly a lesser factor in the election across the UK than the three parties that did take part.  By contrast, proposing the inclusion of the Greens and UKIP but not other parties with MPs is an open invitation for them to instigate court cases they might well win.

For that matter, while UKIP doesn’t currently have any MPs, it’s tempting fate to base an argument on that when the Newark by-election gives them a reasonable chance of making precisely that breakthrough.  Likewise, is it really plausible to place UKIP alongside the Greens if, as polls suggest is eminently possible, Farage leads his party to victory in the European elections?

The scale of that achievement should not be understated: no party other than the Conservatives or Labour has won any national election in over a century.  For comparison, the biggest election the Liberals or Lib Dems have won since 1945 is Devon County Council.  To class UKIP in the third tier is asking for trouble – which may very well be the plan.

Perhaps the question Cameron (or his team) should be asking is whether he or they are right to be so frightened of UKIP.  No doubt they’re still haunted to some extent by the effect Nick Clegg had on the 2010 election campaign after the first debate and are worried that Farage might do something similar.  Perhaps he would but it’s far less clear who would be the loser if he did.  UKIP speak to socially conservative Labour voters as much as Tory ones.

Either way, putting forward a proposal that Ofcom would likely rule out of order is not going to work, either as PR or on its own merits.  The reality is that the media want debates, a goodly portion of the public want debates and some of the leaders will want debates.  Standing against them or trying to finesse them off the table will just look bad.  He could do a lot worse than just back the same format as last time.

David Herdson