Archive for the 'David Cameron' Category

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Urgent question. David Cameron’s big mistake so far

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Cameron European

As with any bureaucratic body, the EU pulses to a rhythm of regular meetings.  The EU being a more complex body than most, multiple cycles of meetings are sinuously interwoven.  Most prominently, at least four times a year, the Prime Ministers of the 28 member countries convene for the European Council.  The most vital business of the day is dealt with at these summits.

Anyone with experience of meetings knows that to control the agenda is to control the meeting. The terms of Britain’s renegotiation with the EU had been an important agenda item for successive meetings for some time.  At the December 2015 European Council, the European Council agreed to find mutually satisfactory solutions in four areas of concern at its February meeting: competitiveness; economic governance; sovereignty; and social benefits and free movement.  The stage was set for David Cameron to conclude his deal.

However, in the run-up to the February meeting, the migration crisis became still more pressing than previously.  Far from dying down over the winter months, numbers of migrants to the EU continued in high numbers.  EU member states had been put under unprecedented pressure by the vast migrations of 2015 and if no action was taken there was every prospect that 2016 would prove still more distressing.  Should this crisis be addressed before Britain’s EU renegotiation?

David Cameron did not relent.  He forced the Council to keep up the pace on the renegotiation, coming away with his agreed deal which he then recommended to the British public.  He duly set the referendum date for 23 June.  The migration crisis was left to be addressed at a later Council meeting.

We can speculate as to his thinking.  If the migration crisis was to get worse, it was imperative to hold the referendum before it peaked in the late summer, so that the campaign was not overwhelmed by the chaos and disorder prompted by migration throughout Europe.  By insisting on rapidly agreeing a deal, he hoped to get the vote out of the way first.  It was in truth an implied vote of no confidence in the EU to be able to address the migration crisis.

With the benefit of hindsight, this looks like a serious error for the Remain campaign, for the Conservatives and for David Cameron personally.  By insisting on prioritising his pet project ahead of something that was demonstrably urgent and important, he alienated his fellow EU leaders.  It’s hard to accept that technical arguments about the incidence of social security benefits are particularly critical if you’re trying to work out how to stop half a million pairs of feet tramping across your country in the coming weeks.  That cannot have improved the terms of the deal.

Worse, if David Cameron wanted to persuade the public to remain in the EU, he needed the EU to operate effectively on the pressing subject of the day.  Britain, just as much as the rest of the EU, had a compelling motive to get migration under control.  On this occasion, the statesmanlike thing to do was the politically smart thing to do.

Imagine an alternative history of the last few months in which David Cameron had decided to defer consideration of the renegotiation with the EU until the migration crisis had been solved.  Initially he would have come under more pressure from his more belligerent Leaver colleagues to get on with it, but that would have been background noise only.  The terms agreed in relation to the migration would probably not have been settled until the March European Council meeting, so the budget would have taken place before the Cabinet had divided on the referendum question.  Iain Duncan Smith would no doubt have bitten his tongue, the better to wield influence in the referendum campaign when it was eventually launched.  So the budget would have passed far more smoothly and the government would continue to feel more purposeful.

The next European Council meeting is due in June, so the local election round would have taken place without constant noises off.  With the spotlight on Labour divisions, the Conservatives would have almost certainly done considerably better.  The big political story would be the continuing agonies of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

Meanwhile, the media would have taken proper note of the sharply diminished number of migrants.  If David Cameron had inserted himself in the narrative of the deal, he would be getting part of the credit for this.

In the meantime, the two rival camps for Leave would still be slugging it out.  The argument was only ended by the Electoral Commission so it is unlikely that it would have ended otherwise.  This could only be to Remain’s benefit.

The deal would still need to be struck, of course.  Would it have been any better than the deal got in February?  David Cameron would have had a legitimate claim for extra flexibility from other Prime Ministers.  But let’s assume that he got exactly the same deal as before and called the referendum over the summer for the end of September 2016.  The referendum would have clashed with much less government business and the slugfest could have taken place without distraction.  The Conservative party would look rather more coherent than before.  And the mood music from the perspective of Remain would sound rather more upbeat.

All this was lost because David Cameron decided to prioritise his own hobby horse.  Right now it looks like a very serious mistake.

Alastair Meeks



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If Corbyn does becomes Prime Minister he should thank those behind the Zac campaign

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

As a Muslim I was appalled at Goldsmith’s campaign, as a Tory I’m appalled that Goldsmith’s campaign makes Corbyn as PM more likely.

When your own sister criticises your campaign and praises your opponent as a good role model, when the media runs a quiz asking Who said it: Britain First or Zac Goldsmith? deep down you must know you’ve run an ignoble, divisive, and poor campaign that may have long lasting consequences. As an intelligent man, Zac Goldsmith should have seen the risks of these tactics and told his campaigning team he didn’t want to campaign like this. Last August, Goldsmith led Khan by 8% in the opinion polls, and should have stuck with the campaign strategy that saw such leads.

As we see on The Observer front page in the tweet above, it is very easy for the Tory Party to regain the mantle of the nasty party and has the potential to re-toxify the Tory Party brand, that David Cameron has worked so hard to detoxify. With David Cameron very publicly endorsing Goldsmith’s attack lines at PMQs a few weeks ago, there’s no way for the Tory Party to disassociate themselves from the campaign, and blame it on a candidate going rogue. Those Lib Dems across the country who switched to the Tories in 2015 maybe put off from voting Tory in 2020 because of this campaign. The impact of this campaign may resonate outside of London.

Unless Sadiq Khan appoints Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as his Deputy Mayor or introduces Sharia law, he can justifiably say all the Tory attack lines about him were bunkum, which ultimately could help Jeremy Corbyn in 2020.

It isn’t hard to imagine during the 2020 general election campaign, the Tories using some of the attack lines they’ve used on Khan on Corbyn. Corbyn’s rebuttal will be a very simple, they said the same about Sadiq Khan and those attacks were nonsense, and that’s even before he can cite several Tories who have publicly condemned the Tory campaign, one of whom said the campaign “probably increased our risks of suffering terrorism.”

The campaign may be a pointer to the forthcoming EU referendum, with both sides already engaging in ludicrous project fear campaigns, where it feels the choice is down to for voting for economic Armageddon if we vote to Leave or having 77 million Turks moving to the UK shortly after we vote to Remain.

Memo to both camps, tone down the hyperbole, criticise your opponents with plausible criticisms and not make it appear that victory for the other side was foretold in The Book of Revelation. A bit more hope and a little less fear please.

TSE



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Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

These don’t appear to be the actions of a PM confident of winning the referendum

Typo alert – The below tweet I think he means Foreign Sec, I hope

TSE



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Cameron can do to the Eurosceptic right in the EURef what he did to Miliband’s LAB and Clegg’s Lib Dems

Monday, April 25th, 2016

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This is about the total destruction of Dave’s opponents

I was very struck last night by the Twreet from politics academic Professor Glen O’Hara on the first week of the referendum campaign.

The reason OUT is so on the defensive at the moment is simply because of the force of the major initiatives from the Cameron team in week one. We have had the Treasury document and the £4,300 claim and then the Obama visit and press conference.

OUT has been totally taken aback by what’s facing them and have responded appallingly in an ill-judged fashion. To get themselves in a position where their only course is to try destroy the reputation of Obama, which Boris stupidly continues this morning, shows how wrong footed they’ve become.

Cooler heads would have kept mum and let the President’s assertions come and go. As it is their current main approach had just made them look weak.

    Boris’s ill-thought out attacks on Obama are as bad a mistake as Labour’s EdStone initiative in the general election. Both came out of panic because of the success of Team Cameron in defining what the election is about.

Is also illustrates the massive weakness of those who want to leave the EU. They simply do not have a figurehead to put the argument in a way that resonates with voters.

What we know about Cameron is that he is totally ruthless when it comes to winning elections. Look at how his team destroyed Clegg in the 2011 AV referendum and then EdM last year. Now it is about undermining the credibility of those who want to leave the EU particularly the Mayor who in February was wavering up to the last moment on which side he should be on.

Let’s see what Week Two brings.

Mike Smithson





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A minority government by another name

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Con Majority

Alastair Meeks asks how could David Cameron deal with a party within a party?

David Cameron has had a cabal of fierce critics on the Conservative backbenches conspiring against him almost since the moment he became party leader.  In the new Parliament, the cabal has re-emerged and, emboldened by a small Conservative majority in the House of Commons, has periodically pounced to undermine their leadership’s plans on tax credit cuts, Sunday trading and benefit cuts, among other things.  The referendum campaign has brought a new focus to long standing tensions within the Conservative party, with Conservative MPs on either side attacking their fellow Conservatives with gusto.  The bonds of loyalty at a party level are being weakened in some cases and in some cases on the Leave side those bonds are in danger of being replaced with bonds to a much narrower grouping.

A party within a party has not yet formed but the danger is real.  The Conservative majority is currently 12.  A rightwing para-party within the Conservatives would command far more than this number.  If it formed, we would effectively have a minority government with supply and confidence support from a para-party that would dearly love to oust the current Conservative leadership.

Does this matter?  After all, the Conservatives have nearly 100 more seats than Labour.  Well yes it does.  Look at the make-up of the House of Commons:

Cons 331 (including Speaker)

Lab 232*

SNP 56*

Lib Dems 8

DUP 8

Sinn Fein 4

Plaid Cymru 3

SDLP 3

UUP 2

Greens 1

UKIP 1

Independent 1

*Includes MPs who have had the whip suspended

Let’s say that 30 Conservative MPs formed a para-party.  What are David Cameron’s options for ensuring that they cannot hold him to ransom?  The answer is: not very good.  The rest of Parliament is unusually uniformly lined up against him.  So finding new allies would be very tough going.

Labour of course are the Conservatives’ real enemy.  But Labour find themselves in competitive opposition with the SNP, who are anxious to show Scots that they are more effective at confronting the Tories.  There is not the slightest chance of David Cameron getting help from that quarter.

In a different way, the Lib Dems are also in competitive opposition with Labour.  They are anxious to show, post-coalition, as much distance from the Conservatives as possible.  Co-operation would be on the most limited of bases and on very specific topics.  Anyway, there are only eight of them.

Of the smaller parties, Sinn Fein don’t turn up, Plaid Cymru and the Greens are like-minded with the SNP and the SDLP is like-minded with Labour.  Lady Sylvia Hermon is independent but much more pro-Labour than pro-Conservative.  David Cameron can forget about help from any of them.

The UUP are a more hopeful prospect for support.  The Conservatives have a Nobel Prize winner in their ranks in the House of Lords – David Trimble, who hopped across from the UUP in 2007.  So David Cameron can hope for help there.  But they have only 2 MPs.

That leaves the DUP and UKIP.  UKIP’s MP, Douglas Carswell, is really an independent clad in purple, but his dislike of David Cameron is evidently intense, judging from his twitter feed.  The DUP come from the same ideological stream as the putative para-party – opposition to gay marriage, socially conservative, keen on populist spending for their client base.  They are far more likely to ally with the para-party than David Cameron’s Conservatives.

We don’t need to get into precise numbers to see that if the Conservative rightwing para-party commanded 30 or so Conservative MPs, David Cameron would be beholden to them on the current Parliamentary groupings.  They could wield a lot of power.

Is there anything that he could do to break a para-party’s grip over him?  Candidly, even the remoter options don’t look good.  His best remaining option to marginalise their influence is to hope for the Labour party also to splinter.  If he were able to make a generous and open offer to Blairite MPs, offering them substantial concessions on policy, he might hope for their support.  But the experience of the Lib Dems is very fresh in all politicians’ minds and the Blairites, even if they were minded to break with the rest of Labour, would need more than that.  Unless they were themselves hard-pressed, I’d expect them to be looking for a no-compete agreement at the next election so that they did not find themselves devoured by their erstwhile allies in the same way as Nick Clegg’s troops.

We’re starting to get into the realms of political novels now.  And that’s my point.  Coming back from flights of fancy, if the Conservative party fractures into smaller blocks, David Cameron will face agonising problems of party management.  He’s always been poor at that and he is unlikely to start getting better once he’s alienated large numbers of his MPs over the referendum campaign.  So his best practical option is to stop the blocks forming in the first place.  That may be easier said than done.  His retirement announcement may after all have been very well-timed.

Alastair Meeks



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Cameron’s biggest EURef error could be diverting from Wilson’s winning 1975 template

Monday, April 18th, 2016

A debut guest post by TC

Up to the point of announcing the date of the referendum, Cameron had been following the example set by Harold Wilson.  In 1975 Wilson was faced with a split in his party and cabinet over the European EC question.  To address this problem, Wilson’s response was to have a renegotiation of our terms with the EC and then have a referendum to decide whether we remained or left.  The Wilson cabinet was also allowed to campaign for either side.

Up to that stage Cameron has followed Wilson’s plan.  However, since the announcement Cameron has diverged from the Wilson plan in one major aspect.   In 1975 Wilson chose to stay aloof from the campaigning letting his pro-EC ministers such as Roy Jenkins play the key roles in communicating the case for staying in the EC.    The result of this was that it never did become a referendum about Wilson’s government and it was less acrimonious for the Labour party.

Cameron has chosen a different course and has clearly decided to front the REMAIN campaign.  As a result, his political fortunes are becoming intertwined with the outcome of the referendum.  Even solid Europhile supporters such as Ken Clarke now openly talk about the fact that Cameron will resign if the people vote for LEAVE.

Therefore nine weeks from the referendum vote, it is in danger of becoming for some voters, particularly left wing leaning voters, an opportunity to send a message to Cameron and Osborne.  “Just vote LEAVE to kick them out.”

Every time that Cameron and Osborne appear in the media advocating REMAIN, they cement in some voters minds the fact that they are part of REMAIN.   If this continues, far from being an asset to REMAIN, Cameron and Osborne may become, its biggest liability. It is better for referendums that they should avoid being viewed as an opportunity to “kick the Government”.  Cameron is creating that opportunity.


TC has been a regular PB poster to several years



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CON voters give Dave a net 24% lead over Boris on whose EU statements/claims are trusted

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

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Why LEAVE has to undermine the PM

It is said, though I have no independent verification, that the Lynton Crosby analysis of the referendum is that the outers have to totally undermine Cameron’s reputation if they are to have a chance.

With Corbyn now coming off the fence which should encourage the Labour IN vote current CON voters are a major battleground between IN and OUT. The polls vary but all have LEAVE ahead amongst this voting segment but the gap needs to be significantly larger than it is. The above chart is a good illustration of why the CON vote could be decisive.

As can be seen at the moment David Cameron enjoys a very significant net lead over Boris Johnson when it comes to who Conservative voters trust on comments and statements in relation to the referendum.

Now the Mayor has become the de facto head of LEAVE numbers like these look set to give us good pointers.

Mike Smithson





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Whittingdale: Will he survive or not survive?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

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How would you bet?

No doubt we will be getting betting markets in the next day or so on whether the culture secretary is going to remain in his job following the revelations that have just come out.

Labour has, predictably, gone on the offensive saying that he cannot carry out his role because of what has happened. Number 10 is for the moment staying by their man.

Cameron has a reputation for not wanting to be pushed and you can look back at instances like with the Jeremy Hunt, when he was in the same culture secretary role four years ago, looking dead and buried but hung on and continues to play a big part in government now as health Secretary.

Clearly with the May 5th elections and the referendum looming this has come at an unfortunate time for the government my guess is that Cameron will try to stick by his initial position and hope the issue falls away.

Whittingdale’s position is further complicated by the fact that he is one of the cabinet ministers who is on the LEAVE side in the referendum debate.

It will be interesting to see the odds that the bookmakers are likely to offer.

It used to be that the major political bookmakers had ongoing markets on which cabinet minister would be next to leave. I cannot see one at the moment

Mike Smithson