Archive for the 'David Cameron' Category


In a strange land

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

UK Border

Antifrank looks at The politics of immigration and asylum

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  These are words which find absolutely no purchase in Britain in 2015.  Fully 50% this month see immigration as one of the three most important issues facing Britain in Ipsos MORI’s regular poll for the Economist and it’s a safe bet that few of them are concerned that Britain isn’t getting enough foreigners.

Proving anything with statistics

If one were just to look at statistics, it isn’t immediately obvious why this should be such a high concern right now.  From the most recent figures available, net immigration appears to have risen (for the year to March 2015 it was estimated at 330,000).  This is a record high, but not out of all proportion with previous years:


It certainly doesn’t account for the recent jumps in the level of concern currently being expressed (only 34% named immigration as one of the three most important issues facing Britain as recently as January).  And it doesn’t seem to be a matter of personal experience.  For example, 47% of the Welsh named immigration as the single most important issue facing Britain today but barely one in twenty Welsh residents are not British citizens.

Asylum seekers are broadly static according to the latest figures, just under 26,000 for the year to June 2015, up 10% on the previous year but far lower than the 84,000 in 2012.  Decisions on these applications are speeding up, running at three times the rate of a year ago.  Nor are they being waved through – the refusal rate for initial decisions for the first quarter of this year (64%) is almost exactly the same as it was in the first quarter of 2014.  Only applications from Eritrea, Iran, Syria and Sudan are normally succeeding.  Appeals are also running at a steady 66% dismissal rate.


Migrating anxiety

So why are the public so worked up about the subject?  In short, the media.  This year we have been treated to many pictures of boatloads of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and the Aegean and to blood-curdling accounts of throngs of migrants at Calais (and consequent disruption to Channel Tunnel services).  News has percolated back of the wall that the Hungarians are erecting on their Serbian border.  More recently, we have seen chaos on the Greek/Macedonian border.  The British public are concluding, correctly, that Europe is seeing an unprecedented wave of asylum-seeking and believe, incorrectly, that Britain is in the frontline of this.  With this conclusion floating on top of a general sense that Britain does not have a grip on more general types of immigration, the public fear the worst.

This sense is remarkably pervasive in some groups.  47% of over 65 year olds and 47% of red top readers named immigration as the single most important issue facing Britain today.  66% of Conservative voters and 82% of UKIP voters named it as one of the top three most important issues facing Britain today.  Make no mistake, having a clear policy on immigration that commands public confidence is going to be vital for all political parties in this Parliament.  So far none of the parties seem to have come anywhere near giving the public confidence in their policies.

In this respect, the British public are remarkably European (though with far less justification than much of their fellow EU citizens).  Britain is mid-table in the EU in terms of the percentage of residents who are citizens of other countries and Britain is now accepting around just 4% of new asylum applications in the EU.  Hungary detained as many migrants in a day this week as Britain this year has been averaging for asylum applications in a month.  50,000 arrived in Greece in July alone.  Germany is expecting 800,000 asylum applications this year.  These numbers give some context to the British immigration figures cited above.

This pressure on the EU is not likely to subside any time soon and the UN is urging EU member states to share the burden equitably.  Jean-Claude Juncker is also looking for an EU-wide solution (he might have better luck if he didn’t gratuitously insult the Prime Minister of one of the countries whose co-operation he is now seeking).

So Britain is going to come under renewed pressure from the rest of the EU to take more asylum seekers.  This is unlikely to go down well at home, to put it mildly.

Staying a step ahead

The Prime Minister has a short term problem of calming public fears, which are mostly unjustified.  He has a medium term problem that the EU is going to be pressuring Britain to take far more asylum seekers, which most British people see no justification for.  And he has a long term problem that he has no clear public message to give about the level of immigration that Britain can expect and deal with, nor of how to stem the influx into Europe of refugees.  Right now, he does not obviously have a plan to deal with any of these.

Against this background, you would expect the Conservatives to be suffering in the polls.  Far from it.  Labour take a more pro-immigration approach than the Conservatives, so are poorly placed to benefit (Jeremy Corbyn believes that migration is a “global phenomenon” and that non-EU immigration into the UK “is mainly family reunion issues”).  Despite UKIP having majored heavily on immigration control, UKIP’s poll ratings haven’t flickered in the last few weeks: perhaps Nigel Farage’s post-election antics have put some off; more likely, UKIP’s absence from the airwaves has left voters not making the connection between their concern about immigration and UKIP.

In the absence of any meaningful opposition, the Conservatives’ poll ratings are buoyant.  This will not last if the public conclude that they are out of their depth on what they regard as the number one issue confronting Britain.  Anti-immigrant parties of different degrees of nativism have been polling well in countries as diverse as France, Sweden, Hungary and Denmark.  With UKIP angling to fill that space in Britain, the Conservatives probably only have a short breathing space.

How should they use it?  Their great difficulty is that the Prime Minister’s past commitments on immigration have been comprehensively broken so his word is going to be disbelieved by many on this subject.  So they need to concentrate on actions rather than words.  The increased urgency at an EU level could assist the Prime Minister.  If he can get substantive movement on intra-EU migration, he may well be inclined to agree to take more asylum-seekers (he could triple the annual number and still Britain would have fewer asylum seekers than it had in 2012).  But the progress would need to be in that order to make it saleable to the British public.  And it assumes that David Cameron is looking for substantive change of the EU rather than something cosmetic.

That would probably see David Cameron’s term as Prime Minister out.  If he does not achieve something on this front, he could rapidly find his second term unravelling.  He tends to get tripped up by subjects that he’d not been focussing on.  This could be his downfall.

In the long term, the EU is certain to continue to face a continual trail of huddled masses.  This is not a function of the world becoming more disordered (the opposite is true) but of increased mobility, enabling wealthier asylum seekers and economic migrants to seek out their preferred destination to make a new life.  They cannot be blamed on an individual level – we would probably do the same ourselves in their shoes – but the social consequences and the levels of asylum seekers and migration that we and our European neighbours can live with as a society will need to be addressed and readdressed for many years.  This is a discussion that has barely started in Britain.



Keiran Pedley looks at whether Cameron could fight the 2020 general election

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Dave hassled

What’s next for the Conservatives? Could David Cameron stay on and fight the 2020 General Election?

Since the Conservatives somewhat unexpectedly won a majority in May most of the media attention has been focused on who the next Labour leader will be. But what about the Conservatives?

As Labour tears itself apart it is easy to forget that the Tories have problems of their own. The party has never really ‘settled’ the issue of Europe and the upcoming EU referendum promises to be a divisive one for the party. Even more importantly, the Conservatives also face a leadership contest at some point this parliament. When thinking ahead to the next General Election, presumed to take place in 2020, it is easy to forget that it won’t be David Cameron leading the Conservatives into it.

The day after the General Election I put £50 on George Osborne to be the next Conservative leader at 7/1. It’s a bet that I feel quite good about. Osborne is known to possess almost ‘Frank Underwood’ like control over the parliamentary Conservative Party and he will surely make the final two if he wants to. There he will likely face Boris Johnson or Theresa May but with the ‘Cameron project’ in the ascendancy he would surely fancy his chances. It is possible that someone new will emerge but with Cameron and Osborne in such control of the party it is difficult to see that happening. The bookies agree – Osborne is now the 7/4 favourite to be the next Conservative leader with Ladbrokes.

However could David Cameron decide to stay on after all and lead the Conservatives into the 2020 General Election himself?

A few weeks ago Mike blogged on this site about this very idea. He made the valid point that Cameron made his promise to stand down during an election campaign where an outright Conservative victory looked like a fantasy. Now the facts have changed and the Conservatives have their majority it is entirely plausible that he could reconsider.

At the time I dismissed the idea. However with Jeremy Corbyn now favourite to be the next Labour leader I wonder if we should start taking it seriously.  Regardless of who wins the Labour leadership it looks like the Labour Party will spend the next five years fighting internal battles. David Cameron may decide that with his opponents divided the temptation to stay on is too great.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Cameron staying on would be how it looks to the public. Typically voters do not like the idea of leaders staying past their sell-by date.

However, if Labour does take a sharp left turn might Cameron argue that he feels compelled to stay on to confront this ‘new threat to Britain’? More importantly, if he privately calculates that only he can guarantee to defeat such a force – that installing a new Conservative leader who might be unpopular with the country is too risky – then the prospect of Cameron staying on as Prime Minister is not as ridiculous as it may at first appear.

Of course, he may not want to stay on. Indeed, after a bruising EU referendum campaign his party may not want him to anyway. However stranger things have happened. After all, a few short months ago many thought Ed Miliband was poised to form a government yet now we approach party conference season with a Conservative majority government and Jeremy Corbyn poised to be the next leader of the Labour Party. As British politics continues to change might the man at the top remain the same for longer than we expected?

Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK and presenter of the podcast ‘Polling Matters’. He tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley



When will Dave depart?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Dave hassled

Pulpstar looks at the Dave exit betting

Away from the current Labour leadership election and Mayoralty there may just be one or two political bargains on offer..

In his late March interview, David Cameron announced that he would not serve out a third term. Here I take a look at when he may leave and some associated odds:

2015: 50-1 Sky Bet (Cease to be PM)

I’d put the odds of the PM leaving this year extremely low.

The only ‘event’ which may hasten his departure is of the actuarial variety, and seeing as Dave is in decent nick the 50-1 doesn’t tempt. Perhaps 200-1 I’d think about it but meh.

2016: 14-1 William Hill (Cease to be Tory leader)

Not as crazy a bet as it may first appear is my thought on this. The best price on us staying IN in the EU ref is 1-4 which equates to a 78% probability (10-3 Out). 2016 is 1-3 favourite for the referendum, which implies the probability of an out vote in 2016 is ~ 17%.
Now although Dave has stated that he won’t resign in the event of an [out vote for the EU referendum]*3, it may well be a pre-ref gambit done so as not to give the OUT side more ammunition. Alex Salmond left as leader of the SNP after losing the Indy-ref, and though that was certainly more visceral to the soul of the Nationalist cause than the EU referendum is to the Conservatives, I don’t think it can be entirely discounted that he leaves in the event of an out vote. So 14-1 is a nice price all considered.

Alex also said he wouldn’t go in the event of a “No” too.

2017: 16-1 William Hill (Cease to be Tory leader)

Early handover period…

Perhaps in many ways an unlikely year for Dave to be leaving, but at 16-1 it is coverable. Speculation will be increasing as to the date of his departure following the EU ref, win or lose since there will be a decent sized void for political commentators with nothing coming up.

Tony Blair resigned in 2007, passing over to Gordon. This would be at the same point in the electoral cycle, and a pre-emptive move might wrong foot George Osborne’s opponents for the leadership. If you can get enough on all the options, perhaps cover stake with this one.

2018: 10-1 William Hill (Cease to be Tory leader)

2018 would give Dave’s successor ~ 2 years to the General Election and allow them to find their feet. Further on than 2017, and more time for ‘events’ to take place. Again 10-1 is a fair price without perhaps being the most outstanding of the lot. Autumn conference 2018 may be a decent time to quit for Dave though.

SkyBet have 2017 and 2018 at 9-4 and 2-1 respectively for Dave to cease being PM, which look like very mean prices.

2019: 7-2 Sky Bet (Cease to be PM)

2019 @ 7-2 looks like a great bet for Dave to cease to be PM. It would enable the new leader to take the 2020 GE would be within the ‘honeymoon’ period. With Labour still possibly in a shambles (Some might argue probably or definitely), a handover to George, Boris or AN Other may be a smart move in 2019.

2020: 7-1 Sky Bet (Cease to be PM)

This can win in one of two ways (Excluding the ever present actuarial method) – first the Conservative leadership contest takes place around Spring Conference, although the time frame from that to the GE is VERY short indeed. Second, Dave decides to take on the GE as PM and loses – it is possible that this happens despite Labour’s current seeing as we’re in majority Government, indeed a late 2018 handover could be a ‘double winner’ – but this is unlikely…



Cameron really does need to be more careful about the words he chooses

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Nigel Farage was right – using the term “swarm” to describe migrants was a mistake


The prospect of fighting a disintegrating LAB could cause Dave to change his mind about stepping down

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Is he having second thoughts about his exit date?

Following Cameron’s comments in the BBC interview at the end of March there’s a widespread assumption that at some stage this parliament that he’ll step aside and a new CON leader will be elected presumably becoming PM before the May 2020 general election.

But is he? The conversation in Cameron’s kitchen came at a time when the election outcome looked very tight. Very few were making assumptions that an overall CON majority was going to be possible. The political context was very different from today.

There were many in the party ready to cast the blame on Dave for failing in 2010 to secure a majority against Gordon Brown. In May, against all expectations, Cameron became an unequivocal election winner.

Now the Tories are in power without the encumbrance of the LDs and look set to be there for all the five years. In the meantime we’ve seen the extraordinary developments within LAB which looks even further now from a GE20 victory than it did on May 8th. Could Cameron’s view of his own future have changed? This was John Rentoul in yesterday’s Indy on Sunday.

“Soon Cameron will have to manage speculation about exactly when before the next election he will stand down, as promised from his Oxfordshire kitchen to the BBC’s James Landale, who tried to hide his excitement at the scoop by fiddling with some vegetable or other.

Indeed, the Prime Minister might have to manage the speculation (from me) that he might change his mind about stepping down before the next election. On current trends, it doesn’t look as if the Labour Party is going to put up much of a fight, so you can imagine Cameron having second thoughts. As he entertained Westminster journalists in the garden of No 10 last week, he looked as fresh-faced as ever, invigorated by the youth-giving elixir of election victory.”

I agree with Rentoul’s observation. It is far from clear that Cameron will go according to the assumed time-table. Walloping LAB again in a general election might prove to be too tempting.

Mike Smithson


If the government cannot get key measures through the commons then it doesn’t have a working majority

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

George Eaton’s analysis is right


Tsipras’ own goal is Cameron’s gain

Friday, July 3rd, 2015


David Herdson on a crucial weekend

If there were any doubt that David Cameron is a lucky politician, events in Europe this last week have again made the point. No sooner had he suffered a setback at the European Council, failing to win a chance of treaty reform, than the Greek government gives him (inadvertently, no doubt), a huge helping hand.

The decision of Alexis Tsipras to commit his government to destruction by a method to be determined by the Greek voters tomorrow might be somewhat unorthodox by normal standards but then this is no orthodox government. The act of a snap referendum was, however, perhaps predictable as the equivalent of a student sit-in or protest march, which is the kind of politics Syriza is familiar with: the belief that a demonstration of solidarity and causing enough of a fuss will force opponents to grant concessions.

Those tactics work rarely enough in the workplace or the university, never mind the conference chambers of government, which is why Syriza has signed its own government’s death warrant. If the vote’s a Yes then its resignation follows, leading inevitably to new elections which one presumes the centre-right New Democracy would win. Alternatively, if it’s a No then it’s a more drawn out and bloody affair with an inevitable stand-off effectively between Yanis Varoufakis on the one hand, Wolfgang Schäuble on the other and the Greek banks and population in between.

By that point, irrespective of the economics, political factors would be paramount and the overriding consideration of the creditors would be to avoid setting an easy precedent – and the creditors, who in the context of an uncontrolled bank run have the trump card of effectively controlling Greece’s money supply and hence its ability to import food, petrol and other essentials – will therefore win providing they keep their nerve. Quite how the government would fall remains an open question but that it would fall is not.

Which way the vote will go is hard to call. The betting markets have Yes at a consistent 4/9 with SkyBet offering No at 7/4 (all other bookies quoting 13/8). That seems to me to considerably overestimate Yes’s chances; sufficiently so to recommend No at those odds.

No is clearly the loud campaign – who rallies for austerity? – and the government clearly believes its own delusions as to what the outcome will mean. And voters believe in the truth of that which is plainly strongly believed. Furthermore, at the last election, the main parties actively, if independently, advocating No polled 52.8% between them (you can’t call as disparate a group as the communist KKE, the radical leftist Syriza, the populist-nationalist ANEL and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn a ‘coalition’ or ‘alliance’). By contrast, those advocating Yes, the conservative New Democracy, centrist Potami and social democrats Pasok only polled 38.5%. (The rest of the 2015 vote went to parties who failed to make it to parliament). The polls, with one exception have all shown the two sides within 4% of each other but with upwards of 15% undecided. That doesn’t feel to me like a solid Yes.

Of course, a loud campaign isn’t necessarily a winning campaign and Yes voters have plenty of reasons to be shy about their intentions. The likelihood is that No will struggle to reach most of the undecided: if they were inclined to vote that way they’d already be there. The question is whether Yes can motivate them instead.

What does all this have to do with David Cameron? Domestically, it again reinforces the message of responsible spending, of fixing the roof while the sun shines or at least making a start once the storm’s passed. Within the EU, it means the UK is no longer the most awkward member. True, the notion of opting out of ever closer union might be heretical to some but at least Britain wants to do it by changing the rules and staying within the rules. Greece’s game-playing, by contrast, is disruption of a different order. There’s an incentive for the Euro-elite to differentiate between the two approaches. Furthermore, there’s a real risk of Greece not only leaving the Eurozone but the EU itself. To lose one member may be unfortunate but to lose two would risk starting a fashion. There is therefore a strong incentive to cut a deal.

But it’s not just about appeasing the Brits. The Eurocrisis has been the beginning of the end of the Delors-era EU: the Europe of the Social Chapter and the federalising-through-regulation. The austerity programme, forced on many members in part via the Euro, has meant a rolling back of the social agenda. Put simply, it’s shifting the EU to the right. And that’s the positive case for Cameron to put to the sceptics in his own party.

David Herdson


Dave’s European Challenge has become very big and very real

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Dave hassled

Cameron could win the vote and still lose his job

Selling the deal to the country was always going to be the easy bit. The tough ask for David Cameron is selling it to his party. The outcome of this week’s summit is, in that sense, one step forwards and two steps back. Simply getting the issue formally into the EU’s ongoing agenda was an achievement but one that is heavily diluted by the acceptance that there’ll be no treaty change.

For the EU, Britain’s demands for reform are no doubt an unwelcome distraction when it has more than enough other challenges to be going on with: the Greek Debt drama, the Med migrants and an aggressively resurgent Russia all demand immediate attention. But many of the issues are interlinked and consequently, so will the solutions be. Cameron’s reforms could easily fit into those same processes.

The danger for the PM is that he’s potentially caught between two extremes. On the one hand, no matter what the result, there are many both in the general public and in the Conservative Party who would like him to ‘do a Thatcher’, and handbag his opposite numbers into giving Britain its powers back, in the manner that she did over the rebate. On the other, Cameron simply can’t afford for the process to become seen as Britain vs the EU, because that’s a battle the EU can’t afford to lose – which means it won’t, given that the other members have a veto over it.

That’s almost certainly why when he made his original speech outlining his aims, Cameron defined his goals not as ‘winning back’ power for Britain as such but as a more ambitious but also more equal project to make the EU more relevant, more efficient, more accountable and (implicitly – he didn’t say it), more popular. Because the reality is that it’s not Britain’s negotiations that threaten the EU’s existance; it’s the risk of collapse from within, from a lack of legitimacy, of purpose and of prosperity.

You might think that it would therefore be in all side’s interests to do a deal that not only addresses the challenges of today but is grounded in the reality of the 21st century rather than the mid-20th: “ever closer union” and all that. However, institutions under most pressure are often least likely to question their purpose because it’s that purpose which defines identity, irrespective of whether it’s effective, appropriate or demanded.

However, unless Cameron can get something, either on an EU-wide level or a special deal for the UK, then how does he sell it to his party? On Europe, the Conservatives are far less split than media commentators stuck in the 1990s might have you believe. The number of irreconcilable EU-phobes in his ranks in Westminster is relatively small – around half a dozen members of Better Off Out and a few others sympathetic to that end. There are even fewer old-fashioned pro-Europeans: he’s called Ken Clarke. In between are what I’ll label Pragmatists and Sceptics. Pragmatists believe that it’s worth being a member on current terms but that it could and should be much better and delivering that improvement should be the prime policy objective. Sceptics believe that current terms aren’t worth it but that the general principle of the Common Market was sound and that in the unlikely event of Britain getting something like that sort of membership back then they’d be In rather than Out.

Cameron’s problem is that short of a major shift in intention among his EU colleagues, there’ll be nothing of that nature on offer; neither a reform in the nature of the EU itself, nor in Britain’s membership terms of it. If that is the result, there’s a good chance that well over 50% of Conservative voters – led by (ex-?)cabinet ministers – will back Out. (On the other hand, if Cameron is successful then expect well over two-thirds to back him).

The PM could still win a referendum against that scale of voter and MP defection, relying on supporters of Labour, the Lib Dems and SNP, but his position would be like Blair’s after Iraq. Put another way, the chances of him standing down in 2017 increased markedly this week.

David Herdson

p.s. Also on matters European, the latest last-ditch talks between Eurozone Finance Ministers take place today; an almost entirely fruitless exercise. In these kind of multilateral negotiations, success is determined by whether the most intransigent parties are prepared to sign up. In this case, that’s the IMF on one side and Tsipras’ Syriza Party on the other. Without both, it’s default. Rather like the descent into WWI, the question is not whether either side wants to precipitate a default but whether they’re more scared of the consequences of giving in to the other side’s demands than of standing up to them.