It’s no secret that the LibDems have a pretty disturbing problem with Israel, or the “the Jews” as they sometimes put it, though these figures are still surprising. LibDemVoice has polled party members, finding that 53% say the party was wrong to withdraw the whip from David Ward. They are spinning this with another figure noting that 54% opposed what he said, but the key point here is that a majority of LibDem members don’t think Ward should have faced disciplinary action over his remarks about “the Jews”. By a clear margin the most popular position was “opposing the whip being withdrawn and supporting his right to continue speaking out in this way”. No other party has a problem like this. See Jenny Tonge, Bob Russell, David Ward et cetera…
Catching up with Andrew Rawnsley’s “award winning” column yesterday, Guido could not help think he had read the same points being made, with all the same examples and the same anecdotes, somewhere before. Rawnsley tackles the great North/South divide debate with a remarkable similarity to Jeremy Cliffe, the Economist’s UK politics correspondent, who wrote extensively on the issue in April. Cliffe’s two pieces are online here and here.
Guido first smelt a rat at the mention of Alastair Campbell, who Rawnsley writes “secured his two, even more whopping landslides in 1997 and 2001 by winning for Labour in places that had been previously thought unreachable. On the night of his first victory, he thought his staff were pulling his leg when they reported that Labour had won St Albans.” Something Economist readers would know from April, minus the insider anecdote.
“Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s spin doctor, recalls the party’s astonishment at the results: “seats were falling that we would never have imagined standing a hope in hell of winning.” The greatest swing was in the south-east and eastern regions, where Labour won 44 constituencies, including such leafy, middle-class suburbs as St Albans (now comfortably Tory once more).”
A coincidence, surely? So Guido started compare the rest of Rawnsley’s column to the Economist pieces, and it does not look good. See if you can spot the differences here:
“Of the 158 seats that make up the three northern English regions, only 43 are Conservative […] Of the 197 MPs representing the English south beyond the capital, just ten are now Labour. The Tories hold only two seats in the north-east and one in Scotland.”
“Of the 158 seats in the three northern English regions, only 43 have a Conservative MP. The Tories hold just two seats in the north-east and have only one MP in the whole of Scotland. […] Under a line drawn from the Wash to the Bristol Channel, there are 197 seats outside London. Just 10 of those seats are represented by a Labour MP.”
Lifting statistics from the Economist is one thing, but what about whole chunks of analysis?
“well-off people in the north are more likely to vote Labour than the poor are in the south […] northerners from the highest social class are more likely to vote Labour than are southerners from the lowest social class.”
“Well-heeled parts of the north are these days much more likely to vote Labour than their counterparts in the south. […] Affluent northerners (the As and Bs of pollsters’ jargon) are more likely to vote Labour than poorer southerners (the Ds and the Es).”
““LET’S all do the conga, Maggie is no longer,” sang fans of Liverpool Football Club during their trip to Reading, in southern England, on April 13th. It was as revealing as any opinion poll. […] Polls following Lady Thatcher’s death revealed a country similarly divided over the merits of her grand funeral. […] Mrs Thatcher did indeed oversee a collapse of northern manufacturing (though that process neither began nor ended with her), as well as a financial-services boom that was mostly felt in the south-east.”
“It is still suffering from the shadow of Mrs Thatcher, which none of her successors has dispelled. As we saw in some of the responses to her death, in much of the north she stands for savage deindustrialisation, impoverishment and southern disdain. She triggered a boom in the City and another in the services sector, the fruits of which were mostly enjoyed by the south.”
“Under the 1997-2010 Labour government the economy grew more slowly in the north—and, partly as a result, the state accounted, directly and indirectly, for a larger share of jobs created there. […] When Labour increased public spending in the north it strengthened its position there. When the Conservative-led coalition began to cut public-sector jobs they strengthened Labour’s position there, too. (The same may yet prove true of cuts in benefits, which are a larger part of incomes in the region.)”
“Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the economy still grew more slowly in the north, but it received proportionately more of the increases in public spending. Now austerity has fallen most harshly on the north, where more jobs are reliant on the public sector and a higher proportion of the population is drawing benefits.”
Oh look, if you change the county, nobody will notice:
“And regional success and failure are self-reinforcing. A bright young thing in Kent who wants to go into politics has two good options: join the Conservative Party, or leave Kent.”
“The divide has become self-fuelling. […] A Labourite in Surrey has a similar problem: forget about being an MP or head north.”
Rawnsley was clearly concious of being accused of lifting his column or he would not have bothered to make such a minor change.
He didn’t stop there though:
“Most obviously, it is much harder for one party to secure a strong political mandate. […] some way to surmount the problem has to be found if either party is to get a respectable absolute majority. […] The country needs national political parties. At the moment, it does not have them.”
“For as long as the two parties are entrenched in their strongholds but incapable of reaching very far beyond them, it increases the likelihood of there being more hung parliaments. Even if one or other of them can scrape together some sort of parliamentary majority at the next election, it is unlikely to be an impressive one, meaning whoever is prime minister will struggle to claim to have a national mandate.”
“The Conservative Party now has scant direct knowledge of the northern cities. Labour is similarly clueless about people living in southern towns.”
“When speaking about the south, some Labour people talk as if they were describing hostile territory rather than part of their own country. When on the subject of the north, some Tories can sound as if they are talking about a part of the map captioned: “Here be dragons”.”
“Both main parties will concentrate on the Midlands, where loyalties are less entrenched, and on picking off Liberal Democrat seats; but the Tories need to win some northern seats to get a majority.”
“They will concentrate on the Midlands and trying to bag some Lib Dem seats, but the Conservatives need to gain some northern seats to have any hope of constructing a reasonable majority.”
“The ideal economic solution would be to build a bigger private sector in Britain’s north (and in Northern Ireland and Wales), demolishing what Tories angrily refer to as Labour’s client state. This is the work of many years.”
“Politicians of all parties talk about “rebalancing” the economy, but that is the work of many years”
And as if that was not enough, for good measure Rawnsley even nicks Cliffe’s “two nations” sentence:
“The diverging politics of the Labour north and Conservative south make England look ever more like two nations.”
“We are not so much a country divided as two nations.”
Struggling with Labour out of power and a complete lack of access, the Observer’s “award-winning chief political commentator” has taken to stealing the work of someone twenty years his junior and attempting to pass it off as his own by tweaking a few words. Quite tragic really.
There has been a painfully obvious concerted effort today from the Tories on Twitter to suggest Labour’s workers’ rights policy has been bought by the unions.
Of course they have a point, though attacking Labour for having a donor involved in setting their workers’ rights policy without even a hint of irony is hardly the most honest attack line ever. Readers will remember Adrian Beecroft, in the “premier league” of Tory donors, who gave well over half a million to the Tories since 2006. Beecroft lobbied Cameron on workers’ rights and no-fault dismissal and even got to write a report on it. The unions buy policy from Labour every day, but the Tories making out they aren’t tainted by dodgy donor dealings is laughable.
UPDATE: Tory source stresses “we decided not to implement the Beecroft report because we didn’t agree with it.”
Nottingham Uni student James Donald has crunched the numbers and found that the younger an MP and the smaller their majority, the more likely they are to use Twitter. Unsurprisingly, younger MPs tend to tweet the most. Micky Fabricant being the exception that proves the rule…
MPs with majorities under 10% are relatively prolific users, with those in safe seats much less likely to bother:
Makes you wonder whether they are doing themselves more harm than good…
Labour Shadow Europe Minister Emma Reynolds doesn’t tend to shout from the rooftops about her previous career. Reynolds gave up her job spinning for lobbyists Cogitamus when she won her seat, just as her old firm were lobbying on behalf of the Campaign for Better Transport. As Guido reported in yesterday’s Sun column, the campaign focussed on lobbying for:
“co-operatives and mutuals to play a pivotal role in providing transport services.”
Guido is sure it was pure coincidence when Reynolds then stood up in Parliament and asked:
“will the Government consider changing it in their review to allow mutuals and co-operatives to bid for future franchises?”
Almost word-for-word identical…
Another stunning scoop from Westminster’s finest political editor. Fresh from his “someone was mean to me on the internet” splash a few months back this journalist of unrivalled political acumen has revealed in the Observer that leaders of rival political parties are not welcome in the secure zones of their rival’s conferences. So Farage will not be allowed to speak at Tory conference, nor presumably will Ed Miliband. This narrative smashing revelation is surely worthy of some sort of prize? Lets all give Toby Helm a big round of applause…
Guido will have another struggling Sunday pundit getting desperate later…
As Guido revealed in yesterday’s Sun column, the Tories will move CCHQ in January from Millbank to Matthew Parker Street behind the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster. After the students smashed up Millbank in 2011, their insurance bill soared. All three major parties will have moved since 2010 by the next election. Their new building doesn’t have a name yet, but Guido imagines the focus groups will stop them having the balls to christen it Margaret Thatcher House. Global Race for Hard-working People House just isn’t very catchy…
Keith Sadler, the new CEO of Ashcroft-controlled political publishing combine Dods plc, has written to reassure employees this morning:
Our results for the 15 months to 31 March 2013 were posted on Friday. The underlying numbers were exactly in