Archive for September, 2011


..and so into the weekend in the PB Nighthawks Cafe..

Friday, September 30th, 2011

We are now two thirds the way through conference season – only the Tory one to go and then normal politics resumes.

Before this conference season started I thought that the Lib Dem one would be the most interesting and the Labour one the least. How wrong I was. Last week in Birmingham it was a bit boring and the roastings that were predicted for Nick Clegg didn’t happen.

Labour in Liverpool has been extraordinary with people continuing to talk about Miliband’s speech.

Have a great weekend which opens, of course, with the crucial RU World Cup match between England and Scotland.



What’s Harriet done for future leadership contests?

Friday, September 30th, 2011

How will the 1+ woman rule work in practice?

One of the more significant events to have taken place at Labour’s recent conference was its adoption of the Refounding Labour proposals. Amongst these were the scrapping of Shadow Cabinet elections and the introduction of a rule that at least one of Labour’s leader and deputy must be a woman, championed by its current deputy, Harriet Harman.

I’ve not been able to find the precise wording of how this would actually work but it’s certain to affect how future leadership elections would play out. The simplest solution would be for joint tickets whenever there was a leadership vacancy. Anything else could become messy quite quickly.

Take the 1994 election as an example. Tony Blair, Margaret Beckett and John Prescott all contested the leadership, with Beckett and Prescott simultaneously standing for Deputy Leader. With Blair winning the leadership, that would have meant Beckett would have automatically become deputy, even though she quite clearly lost, and even though it was apparent that Prescott was much keener on the deputy’s job as a role in its own right. Her position would have been undermined from the start.

Even more bizarre consequences could follow if only one position were to be up for election. Suppose the heart condition Blair suffered in 2004 had been worse than it was and forced him to step down but that Prescott wished to stay on as deputy.

One can only imagine the tranquil equanimity with which Gordon Brown would have received news that Diane Abbott and Hazel Blears were to contest the leadership but that he was barred.

Labour is not the only party that has tried to amend its selection processes in order to achieve or prevent certain results but it has been the most enthusiastic. Whenever any party has tried it, the results have often been suboptimal. How the public would respond to an All Women Shortlist imposed at such a high political level is another question well worth asking.

As others have pointed out, there’s also a danger of this sort of identity-quota policy spreading. It’s presumably coincidental that white, middle-class, middle-aged, heterosexual Harriet Harman has chosen to propose a rule that applies to the one significant demographic of which she’s a member which is underrepresented in the Commons for the rule change, but it could be equally well applied to other groups in, for example, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet.

The problem is that each restriction makes it harder to promote on merit, potentially keeps some more talented individuals away from the game, may put some off altogether, and forces others into the limelight before they’re ready.

Again, let’s look into the crystal ball. Suppose Harman were to stand down this year, would it be an Yvette Cooper coronation? What if she didn’t want to stand? Which other of the Labour women is ready for that level of responsibility? It all becomes very restricting, especially for a party whose front bench is struggling to make an impact. In fact, I don’t believe the rule will survive being applied once or at most twice and will ultimately be withdrawn or heavily watered down. Even so, it will leave its legacy.

David Herdson


Could a fat man ever be elected President?

Friday, September 30th, 2011

What are Christie’s chances if he decides to run?

Over the past week or so the big buzz in the fight for the Republican nomination is whether Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, will enter the race.

Senior figures in the party have been pressing him to put his hat into the ring because they believe that a moderate conservative with a good record would have a better chance of beating Obama than the current front-runner, Mitt Romney, or last month’s “star”, now on the wane, Rick Perry.

What’s bringing this to a head is that there isn’t much time left for a new entrant to come into the race and that Christie himself, has refused to rule it out.

Overnight a leading New Jersey newspaper, the Star-Ledger, is quoting a source close to the governor saying that he’s “seriously considering” a run.

It reports:”…In the last week, Christie has been swayed away from his earlier refusals to run by an aggressive draft effort from a cadre of Republicans and donors unhappy with the GOP field, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity..Christie has a small window of opportunity to make his final decision, and some political experts think he has only days to declare.

One issue that is increasingly being discussed on talk shows in the US is Christie’s weight. Without putting too fine a point on it he’s fat. This TV programme a sense of how he is being perceived.

In the betting Christie has moved sharply to the third favourite slot. Intrade have him at 8% to get the nomination. His price will certainly tighten if he does run and I’ve had a punt.



Tonight in the PB Nighthawks Cafe…

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

I’ve had quite a busy day betting.

My respect for HenryG is such that I thought it was worth wagering a fair bit on his core proposition that EdM is not going to survive and that Yvette Cooper is best placed to win a new leadership election. I got on her at 4/1 which seems like a good price. I also got more on at 11/4 that EdM will step down as leader before the general election.

Tonight’s YouGov daily poll has CON 38: LAB 41: LD 9 – so no conference bounce for Ed.

Anyway – have a good night in the “Cafe” – PB’s informal overnight thread.



Labour’s conference: The Henry G Manson verdict

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

His prediction: “what needs to be done will be done”.

This was a bad Labour Party conference. It was confusing, contradictory, let the government off the hook and needlessly created an array of hostages to fortune. It all the feel of an emergency party conference arranged with a fortnight’s notice – not a platform planned carefully to showcase an alternative government and Prime Minister. 

This week wasn’t just a car crash. It was a 30 car pile-up. I could write 10,000 on words on what went wrong. For now here’s my summary from a Labour perspective. We now have:

  • A leader who certainly does not look like a Prime Minister. If a first impression wasn’t already formed by the voters then it has this week. If the speech was composed and delivered with the intention of demonstrating his weaknesses over his strengths then it succeeded. He’s a nice guy but he’s out of his depth and not up to the demands of Prime Minister. The public know it and now we do too.
  • A party that is now passing verdict on everything and everyone. Journalists should under license, businesses are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and TV programmes such as Big Brother are irresponsible. Labour had previously been shedding its olds authoritarian impulses. They’re back in spectacular fashion with a childlike twist. The most depressed person right now must the be the party’s head of fundraising anticipating having to run a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ business test on any future corporate donors – should any come forward. This judgementalism will only make more opponents than allies.
  • A pledge to ‘spend every pound wisely’ if elected. Possibly the most naïve hostage to fortune since I can’t remember when. Nobody goes into government with the intention of wasting money however but this is a preposterous guarantee. But within any organisation of any scale there is always some waste or some risks that don’t come off. Should Ed Miliband’s Labour somehow stumble into power then we’ve have given a field-day for the press and Taxpayer’s Alliance to identify waste on any scale and hold up Ed’s remarks against it.
  • Policy chaos. Our position on university fees that they should be double what Labour pledged at the election a year ago – yet this stance is not even a policy commitment for the next general election. So we are in an imaginary world in which we outline what we would do if in power today which only makes sense in response to what the Tories have also done having also won too. This is not even plausible science fiction.
  • Strategic knots. We repeatedly oppose ‘ideological cuts’ and highlight how they undermine society and slow down the economy. Yet Labour won’t yet pledge to reverse any of them. Every time Labour speaks out on a cut they will be asked, quite reasonably ‘would you reverse it?’ Our stance makes us appear impotent and insincere.
  • The chances are of Ed Miliband being Labour leader at the next election are not at all good. Frankly no-one is going to die in a ditch for him.

    The key question is who is likely to replace him? What’s clear to me after this conference is that it certainly won’t be David Miliband. The only possible candidate who could unify MPs, party members and trade union members and take the fight to the Government is Yvette Cooper. The fixed term legislation buys the Labour Party time to sort this mess out. And what a mess it is.

    But for all the disbelief at Ed Miliband’s performance this last year and this week, conference closes without despair, but in fact calm.

    All the recent doubts and uncertainties have in fact been settled. At the appropriate time in the next 12 months what needs to be done will be done.

    HenryG Manson @henrygmanson


    Will October’s polling be crucial for EdM?

    Thursday, September 29th, 2011

    Is the media narrative now about his leadership

    The chart contrasts the Labour lead in the overnight YouGov daily poll (6%) for the Sun and the deficit Ed Miliband has when the same sample was asked “who would be the best PM” (-14%).

    When the “best PM” question was asked just before the general election Gordon Brown trailed Cameron by just six points.

    The detail of the overnight polling shows that just 1% of LibDem voters named Ed as “best PM” with 20% going for Cameron.

    It’s that different picture between voting intention and leadership responses the we’ve seen have had in several recent polls and, interestingly the latter are now being given much more attention by commentators.

    What this all does is fuel the media narrative about Miliband’s leadership and he could have a difficult few weeks.

    Will he survive? That’s hard to say but the bookie, Stan James, now makes Miliband 2/1 to be next leader out. Clegg is at 3/1.



    It’s the PB Nighthawks Cafe again

    Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

    Well a whole day and a bit has passed since Mr. Miliband made his Liverpool speech and it is still the big talking point.

    The latest YouGov daily poll, has Labour still with a six point lead over the Tories – 43 to 37 with the LDs on 9.

    A Sun Tweet had this:-

    This is hardly dramatic especially as the same poll also has Dave’s rating as “Best PM” down one point as well.

    Anyway as PB regulars know the PB Nighthawks Cafe is where the site’s informal overnight conversation take place – all under the banner of Marf’s her excellent spoof of the famous Hopper painting.

    Have a good evening.



    Will the conference help Labour do better in the blame game?

    Wednesday, September 28th, 2011


    Or is the party still going to be held responsible?

    Probably the biggest challenge facing the Two Eds is dealing with the perception set out in the polling featured above – who is responsible for the cuts?

    The good news is that compared with a year ago there’s been a drop from 44% to 40% in those blaming Labour. The coalition, meanwhile has seen its proportion up from 20% to 22%.

    The bad news for the red team is that in spite of everything a significant proportion of people continue to blame the Gordon Brown government that left office on May 11th 2010.

    Almost all the polling has voters critical of specific measures and the way cuts are being carried out – but they are still holding Labour responsible for the big picture.

    The Two Eds need to find a convincing way of dealing with this and from what I’ve seen this week there’s been little recognition that there’s even a problem.


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