Archive for the 'Ed Miliband' Category


As Osborne starts his 5th budget Betfair punters rate CON majority chances at 20.8 pc and most seats at 41.7

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Will today’s announcements help CON get any closer?

With just over a year to go before the general election today’s budget is key to Tory chances. This morning’s news on employment and the general better economic pointers. These, though, have yet to work themselves through in the polling.

Political gamblers are taking a more bullish view of the party’s chances as can be seen from the latest trade data, featured in the chart above, from Betfair.

I’m putting up this now because it’ll be a good reference point for the future. Will George give punters more confidence in the Tory chances or not?

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The Tories go on the offensive with a personal attack against Ed Miliband – but there are dangers with this approach

Monday, February 24th, 2014

And we’ve got more than 14 months to go

I’m not convinced that the Tories have got this right. An attack like this has its dangers particuarly, I’d suggest, for Grant Shapps.

We saw last autumn how the Labour leader was able to turn the Daily Mail attacks on Miliband’s father into a positive and that could happen this time.

I’d have thought that the strongest CON card was the economy. Why not play that?

Methinks this is a mistake.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Why those wanting an EU referendum shouldn’t pin their hopes on Ed Miliband

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Last night I got into a little Twitter discussion with Lord Ashcroft over Labour and an EU referendum. He was articulating what is a widespread Tory view that EdM will be forced ahead of the election to make a commitment. It will become a politically difficult, they believe, for him to avoid.

I’m not convinced for three reasons.

Firstly, as the polling shows Europe is less of an issue for LAB voters than any other segment. Indeed on the issues facing “you and your fmily” just 3% of LAB voters name it.

Secondly Those close to Miliband have been reported saying that he would not want his first term as PM to be so dominated by such a referendum.

Thirdly, why should Labour do anything to close down an issue that has been so corrosive to Tory fortunes over more than two decades? Far better to keep it alive so the blues remain split.

Mike Smithson

Ranked the 33rd most influential person aged 50+ on Twitter


If not Balls as Shadow Chancellor then who?

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

PaddyPower is now taking bets on who’ll be shadow chancellor at GE2015 – a sure sign that Balls might be in a spot of bother.

I’ve long held the view that it won’t be Ed Balls who, it’ll be recalled, wasn’t EdM’s first choice for the job when he became leader. Whatever the strengths of the incumbent the narrtaive has been running sharply against him. John Rentoul has a great piece in today’s Indy on Sunday.

Ed Miliband is the exact opposite of the weak leader that Lynton Crosby is trying to portray him and I’m convinced that there’s a good chance of a move to re-deploy Balls before GE2015.

My choices are – Chris Leslie, Rachel Reeves and Chuka Ummuna who have all edged in.

Mike Smithson

Blogging from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble since 2004


Not if but when should Ed back an EU referendum?

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Ed with No 10 collage

Henry G Manson says Ed should do it sooner not later

Labour is signed up to an EU referendum in principle. Any new shift in powers will lead to one. That’s just a matter of time. Surely it’s better to take control and choose on your own terms and your own timing?

The argument for ‘not right now’ is reasonably coherent. We must focus on jobs and growth. ‘Not 2017′ makes sense because signposting such a timetable four years would play havoc with investment as the Tories are starting to appreciate. It would also dominate the first 2 years of a Miliband-led government and a defeat would seriously weaken his government.

With the Liberal Democrats also in favour of a EU referendum then it makes it impossible for Labour to go into the general election as the only party wanting to ‘deny the people a say’. It’s politically untenable. So Labour must have a position before 2015.

    Should this come before of after the European elections in May 2014? After May will look like weakness and reluctance if UKIP poll well. So a pledge may as well be before May.

Once this has been accepted it will shift the focus onto the Conservatives and their position. All of a sudden Adam Afriyie’s autumn 2014 timetable looks interesting. Labour’s Tom Watson already backs it. The economy will likely be a touch stronger and Labour can say a short run-in will minimise uncertainty to investors and is the responsible thing to do.

It will then put the question to David Cameron that if he is so keen to give people a say, then why not now when you’re in government? Eurosceptic Tories will look at the opinion polls, perhaps not fancy their chances of being in government in 2017 and recognise their best window of opportunity lies in late 2014.

David Cameron is in favour of remaining in the European Union and will be forced to make his case in the teeth of opposition from a sizeable portion of his party. He will be dependent on Miliband, Clegg and Salmond to help him win. Ed Balls would be quite comfortable arguing alongside the CBI for why we need to remain a EU member, Ed Miliband could stand alongside the TUC and do likewise. That’s a broad coalition for Labour to amass. Labour and the Lib Dems will be united, the Tories will be split.

If Britain votes to leave the EU better to do it on Cameron’s watch. If it’s to remain then better to do so with Labour’s assistance. Either way it will clear the decks before the election and the vote that really matters to the parties. It’s just a matter of timing.

Henry G Manson


David Herdson says don’t “misunderestimate” Ed Miliband

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Ed with No 10 collage

Has he been taking advice from George W Bush?

The forty-third president of the United States said some silly things in his time, to the extent that ‘Bushism’ has become defined not as his political philosophy but as the kind of verbal misspeak that occurs when the brain and mouth take different directions during the same sentence, or alternatively, when a high-powered politician goes in for ill-advised flippancy.  On which note, his speech to the 2001 Gridiron Club dinner contained the following piece of advice, allegedly given to him by Democrat Robert Strauss:

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you need to concentrate on.”

Now it has to be said that Bush said it in a speech where presidents are supposed to tell jokes and that whatever his other failings, taking himself too seriously wasn’t among them.  It also helps when coming out with a piece of arch cynicism to attribute it to your opponents rather than, say, Karl Rove.  Even so, there’s more than a grain of truth in it providing that there isn’t too big an adverse effect among those you don’t fool.

And what’s true in America is also true in the UK.  Perhaps the biggest turnaround in fortunes in the last year is that Ed Miliband is now rated far better among those who say they’d vote Labour were there an election now.  The turning point was probably the Syria debate, when Miliband refused to back the government’s motion and – perhaps accidently – ended up defeating it.  (My own belief is that Miliband probably expected the government to win, for air strikes to take place and for Labour to therefore be able to play it either way depending on how events turned out).  No matter.  Opposition to air strikes was popular and Miliband learned to ride the wave.

Before the Syria vote, Labour had of course opposed the government on spending cuts and tax rises but that always felt like opposition-by-numbers.  What’s changed is that Labour has now gone on the offensive in proposing things like the energy price freeze and the living wage subsidy.  These are measures that are superficially popular.  Who wouldn’t like lower energy bills or more pay?  The question as to who pays for it hasn’t been answered but that doesn’t matter because it’s barely been asked.

The reason why the government’s had trouble asking it is twofold.  The first is that Miliband, Balls and the rest of the Labour front bench are more than happy for the onus to be placed on energy firms or big business: things sufficiently remote and unpopular for people to be happy for them to take the hit.  Whatever the actual economic effects of the policy would be, the short term political dividing line places the Tories and Lib Dems next to the fat cats and Labour by the little guy.

The second – attributed to the aforementioned Karl Rove though I can’t place the direct quote – is that when you’re arguing about details, you’re losing.  Not that it matters who said it: the point is right.  Miliband’s proposals have caught the imagination because they spring from a genuine feeling of grievance about energy prices and low pay.  Even if people don’t believe they would work, they at least think that Labour recognises the problem.  Debating the possible effects of the policy merely reinforces the point.

The lesson from all this?  Don’t misunderestimate Ed Miliband.

David Herdson.


GE2015 could be decided by whether enough people have felt the benefit of this ‘economic recovery’

Friday, November 8th, 2013


Henry G Manson on Ed and Dave’s big gambles

These last few months have witnessed David Cameron and Ed Miliband place a sizeable political wager against each other, with the keys to Downing Street at stake. The Conservative leader believes the economy will show positive signs of recovery by 2015 and enough indication that the government has made good on its promise to repair the economy. The Labour leader on the other hand is gambling that even with 6 more quarters of economic growth, not enough people will feel the benefit and in fact things could still feel worse for them and their families.

    Instinctively you might think that it’s the Labour leader who is taking the biggest risk. But some of the deepseated problems in the economy mean that it’s not functioning in the same way as in previous recoveries.

It seems likely that people will continue to experience a decline in living standards even with modest growth. Labour are highlighting how 39 out of 40 months under the Coalition government wages have fallen in real terms compared to prices and I wouldn’t bet against that bleak run continuing for some time yet.  

Somewhat surprisingly the Conservatives still don’t have a policy on energy that stands up to Labour’s. Many bills are expected to continue to rise ahead of inflation.  Up to half of the government’s cuts for this parliament are still to take place. Meanwhile he growth of minimum wage jobs, zero hour contracts, part-time work when wanting full-time hours might be enough to drag unemployment figures down, but they’re hardly a return to the good times for those concerned.

There could be a revival in the housing market (that goes beyond Russian oligarchs buying up London real estate) but Mike has already highlighted how an increase in house prices could cause more voter disapproval than approval. So what exactly will it take for the majority of the public around the country to feel better off? And do the Conservatives still have time to deliver it in the next 18 months?

Possibly the most dangerous scenario is for Conservative ministers to be explaining how things are indeed better while they’re going downhill for many individuals. This is why Labour’s charges of being ‘out of touch’ could really land home. GDP figures simply won’t win votes on their own.

Of the two I currently believe Ed Miliband has the value bet, but David Cameron is the one in power and still has a window of opportunity to actually do something. His party isn’t predisposed to market intervention but I really don’t believe the Conservatives can afford to risk a ‘steady as you go’ Autumn Statement.

Henry G Manson


David Herdson argues that the rising cost of living might not be Miliband’s magic bullet

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Labour could be handing the government the economic debate by default

Two news stories this week again highlighted the critical issue of the cost of living, which Ed Miliband made the centrepiece of his conference speech, and which Labour has been pushing ever since its leaders worked out that a genuine economic recovery was underway.

The first was the round of energy price hikes, which may or may not be partially related to that very speech – there was plenty of speculation that energy firms would seek to insulate themselves from possible wholesale market cost rises by raising prices in advance (not that it’s easy for any government spokesman to say so, as that line implies the energy companies believing Labour has a strong chance of forming the next government).

The other was the release of the inflation and earnings figures for September, where RPI inflation continued to outstrip average earnings, as it has done for some time now.  There is a flip side to that equation, which is that given reasonably strong growth and no other exceptional factors, you’d expect to see an improving employment picture, which is indeed the case.  Not that it necessarily feels like that.

And therein lies the political problem for the government: the big picture might be looking a good deal more rosy than it did this time last year but people don’t feel better off – because they aren’t.

Nor is there a great deal the government can do to change that situation, or not without undermining the message with which it’s been justifying the need for its austerity programme for the last three years.  There are some costs which could be done away with – as the SNP suggested yesterday, on green energy surcharges for example – but not without a backlash from those who support them, including those on the government benches.

So if there’s not much that can be done to deliver an instant feel-good effect, the debate will instead centre on who’s to blame for the lack of one, while the various parties seek to feel (or at least, voice) the pain of the electorate.  Ed Miliband did that very effectively when he took on the energy companies, despite being responsible for a part of those increased costs (proving once again the short memory and low awareness of many voters), though it’s not led to a lasting shift in the polls.

Perhaps one reason why not is that while Ed Miliband leads David Cameron in terms of being seen as in touch with ordinary people (though the great majority don’t see either of them as such), the polls have been moving slowly but steadily in the government’s direction on the economic questions in YouGov’s regular trackers:

  • The balance on whether the government is handling the economy well or badly has risen to around -13 in the last three polls, up from about -30 mid-year and as low as -43 last year.
  • A majority in the last three polls also believe the way the government is cutting spending is good for the economy; last summer, there was a regular 20+ point majority opinion against that view.
  • Those who think the cuts are being done unfairly still outnumber those inclined to the ‘fair’ option by about 22% but that’s only half what it was eighteen months ago.
  • Double-digit majorities in each of the last four polls blamed the last Labour government over the current Con-LD one for the cuts; for eight straight months last year, that gap stayed consistently in a range between 5 and 10 per cent.  The most recent in the series (October 13-14), put it at 15% – the highest since January 2012.

The figures across the board tell the same story, and Labour’s decision to move on from the economy in general to the cost of living is perhaps both cause and effect of that trend.  Will concentrating instead on people’s pay packets trump the big picture when most agree that the cuts are necessary?  No-one ever said the electorate were consistent in their demands or analysis and politics is invariably local, so it is possible.

One final thought: as Mike has regularly pointed out, the biggest swing since the 2010 election was from Lib Dem to Labour.  The Lib Dems justified their decision to enter coalition with the Tories on two principal grounds: that the Conservatives had the better mandate, and that a Blue-Yellow coalition had the best chance of fixing the economy.  If the country is increasingly coming to the view that they’re succeeding in doing so, how much of that will rub off on the Lib Dems, and how many of those switchers will come back to the fold in 2015?

David Herdson

  • If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints or originals, please contact her here.