A request

31 October, 2007

Off to London to protest against the Saudi state visit. In the meantime it would be most helpful if you could use your brilliant news savvy to work out what is going to be asked on Question Time this week.

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Dawber in a Delorian

30 October, 2007

Not only is Howard Dawber the Labour candidate in Bexleyheath and Crayford he can also lay claim to the fact that he is the only person on the face of the earth to get me to play the tune Edelweiss on cow bells with a guy dressed in leiderhosen. Clearly he is a man of many talents.

The latest of which he displays with a video which is half party political broadcast and half homage to a very classic piece of cinema that we all know and love. With out futher ado I bring you Bex to the Future

For the first half click here

Sure there have been new Tory think tanks like Iain Duncan Smith laughable centre for social justice and the more Cameroonian policy exchange but there is an emphasis on campaigning rather than politics in this new coalition. I think this a mistake as the problem for the Tories wasn’t their well funded campaigns but the idiotic policies and world view that they are trying to foist on the British public. Trying to hold this is all together is George Eustice from Conservative Central Office whose role is directly modelled on that of Tim Goeglein who is in charge of relations with the Conservative Coalition in the Whitehouse. But what will the effect of all this be and how are they going to use it to regain power.We should not be in any doubt that a future Conservative government will mount a vicious attack on the Labour movement as a whole. Not only can we kiss good bye to the union modernisation fund in the first hours of a Cameron administration but any reform of party funding under a Conservative government will attempt to stop the Unions from funding the party. The original Thatcherite attack on the unions had more to do with their public role as actors in the economy. New Conservative thinking understands the benefits of rooting a party in a societies social structure. They understand the strength the Labour-Union link gives to working people and will do everything they can to smash it.

The Republicans have also been brilliant at using social issues to their own advantage. Now the British tory party isn’t going to make opposition to gay marriage their most important policy, for one thing that wouldn’t work over here. What they will want to do is find an issue that extends and strengthens their base will attacking people who are unlikely to be Tory voters. We can see such a play on their position on incapacity benefit but the real cleavage they hope to open up is bashing Scotland.

They may call themselves the unionist party but whipping up anti Scottish feeling amongst skilled and semi skilled manual workers in the marginal constituencies of England with a perception that the Scots are ripping the English off would play very well for them electorally. With only one MP from the whole of Scotland it’s a wonder that they put up candidates in the general election. So they have much to gain and little to loose from such a strategy. Already they are proposing an English Grand Committee with English votes for English laws, expect more concerted attacks on the Barnet Formula and more Kelvin McKenize style batterings on the alleged lazy fecklessness of the Scots from Tory outriders rather than party HQ.

Oppositions always have more time to concentrate on their organisation. The challenge for Labour is both to govern the country effectively but also to press ahead with developing the party and the rest of the movement so that we can embed a long lasting social democratic culture in the country as a whole. Not just a temporary political hegemony brought about by an electoral system that favours the largest party but a social hegemony that forces any future Conservative party to choose between being in government and accepting a social settlement instituted by Labour as they had to do in the fifties and their Thatcherite extremism of permanent opposition. If we manage that it will be Labour’s greatest triumph.

Power without responsibility

29 October, 2007

Have to say I was a bit surprised to learn that we allow expats to vote in the UK for 15 years after they have left. Personally I don’t think there is a case beyond 5 years. If you don’t live here, don’t pay tax here and aren’t going to be effected by the result of your vote then why should you have one?

PS My opinion on this hasn’t been altered at all by the dismal prospect of allowing a certain Czech rightwinger the chance to vote in a tory government and escape the consequences. No not at all.

The Tories have gone through 4 leaders in their search for power over the last decade. During most of this time they have not been serious innovators in developing the campaigning capacity of their party. There model for victory essentially didn’t change from when they were in government but since both Bush was re-elected in 2004 and another defeat for them in 2005 they have started to change the way they do the business of politics.

Cameron may be lightweight PR spiv but partiality mustn’t hide us from the reality that it is not inconceivable he may one day become Prime Minister. Just because a political parties candidate for leader of country is a danger to himself (remember the pretzel) and others doesn’t mean they can’t be elected just look Stateside for proof of that one.Perhaps it was their effectiveness at getting a warmongering imbecile re-elected or perhaps it was the conservatives fetish for all things American but the Tories are seriously learning the Republican game plan and want to use a British version on their attempt to regain power.

British Tories want to recreate a conservative coalition in the mould of the one that took Bush to the second term of his presidency. They realise that their brand is permanently tarnished so they are trying to change the cultural climate to a more conservative temperature and distribute conservative messages from organisations other than the official party so that voters are more open to listening to them. This is also a highly effective way to avoid the spending restrictions in place on political parties. Quite where the funding comes for all this the’re not exactly volunteering.

So how is this British Conservative Coalition shaping up? Links across the pond to their political mentors come from The Atlantic Bridge, Networkme formerly Bluelist targets young professionals with an offering that appears far from the traditional image of the Conservative Party, Conservativehome gives an opportunity for the never will bes to sound off and make the leadership look more reasonable by comparision. The Young Briton Foundation runs training schools for aspirant Tory hacks; Tory blogger Iain Dale calls it the Conservative Madrassa. New media comes from Iain Dales blog, 18 Doughty Street an internet TV station and Tory radio.

Further from the central party but still intimately linked are Vote OK which rallied hunting supporters to the Tory cause . The Tax Payers Alliance is about as close to a front organisation that you are ever going to get. Yet because it hasn’t got an official Tory party badge on it gets much more widely quoted in the media peddling an anti tax line and creating a climate for public spending slash and burn while the Shadow Chancellor talks about protecting public services. Part II will appear later…

Best of the rest: Volume II

29 October, 2007

Transformation Tracker on DIY Cyber-counterterrorism

Labour and Capital on Behavioural Economics

Foggy Bottom Line on International cooperation and threats from non state actors

Johann Hari on the visit from the Saudi’s

Updated: Hopi Sen on tory immigration policy

Cameron’s Travelgate?

27 October, 2007

Uuuummmm my waters are telling me that Westmonster could well be on to something here. We shall have to wait and see which dead tree journo is the last one left awake and picks it up.

This is the follow on post from the first part

Table 3. Aspects of modern campaigning – all parties

1992

1997

2001

2005

% used computers

74

85

88

94

% had computerised electoral register

43

64

71

80

% used party software

33

54

61

73

% used computers for knocking up lists

28

37

43

62

% sent ‘substantial amount’ of direct mail

23

21

31

% some telephone canvassing during campaign

32

52

51

63

Mean % of electorate telephone canvassed

7.6

7.7

7.5

% ‘knocked up’ by telephone

37

45

60

% some telephone canv in year pre election

48

47

57

% had outside telephone calling pre-campaign

19

31

% had outside telephone calling during campaign

10

16

30

% with website

44

66

NB. The dash means that the question wasn’t asked in that survey.

Soon a campaign without a computer will be as strange as an election without voting. Already British political parties are moving into the world of social media whether this is Labour Central or a multitude of Facebook groups set up to support particular constituency campaigns.

What is pretty clear to me is that this is tending to be used amongst political activists themselves rather than as a way to reach the electorate. Who can name a British election result where the perceptions of the voters have been changed by what’s on the net to such an extent that it changed the results.

The next stage will be when campaigns start putting their facebook groups details on leaflets and the collection of constituent email addresses becomes the passion that it has become for the Presidential campaigns in the US. Significant numbers of candidates are also running blogs and the static website is looking just a little staid these days.

Personally I favour direct mail that is both personalised and localised rather than something sent out by a national party as the voters I think are much more likely to perceive this as “junk mail”

With fewer activists on the ground political parties will be increasingly tempted to automate telephone canvassing as this will also be substantially cheaper than using paid staff whether the voters will accept it is another matter. Personally I can’t stand such technologies.

Table 4: Mean Scores on Index of Campaign Strength

Con

Lab

Lib Dem

SNP

Plaid

Overall

14.3

9.4

7.1

8.6

4.7

Very safe

14.3

10.4

11.4

Comfortable

13.6

15.1

14.6

15

11

Marginal held

14.7

15.4

16

15

Marginal not held

16.8

8

13.7

Possible

15.5

6.6

13.8

Hopeless

9.6

3.1

4.9

7.3

4.1

Put simply the strongest campaigns were run by the Conservatives in the seats that they wanted to gain. With the Ashcroft millions and the same electoral position of the Labour government looking to defend its majority I think this will be a pattern we shall see in the next election as well.

In the safest seats either Labour was the most effective at moving activists out to the marginals or we have problem in motivating our core vote. Unfortunately I suspect that it is the latter. Presently this is not a problem after all a very safe seat isn’t suddenly going to jump to opposition control but it is not a situation that we can let slide indefinitely.

The Conservatives put more than 3 times as much effort as Labour into hopeless seats which seems pretty stupid to me at least. This may not be a surprise to some. 

I can’t help but think that it is a boost for the argument in favour of PR because the logical extension of this focused campaigning is focused policy which would leave out the vast majority of the electorate as they are neither in a marginal seat or indeed swing voters in such a constituency.

Best of the rest: Volume I

27 October, 2007

There is plenty of stuff that I would like to cover in more detail or posts that I just think are good in there own right but there are only so many hours in the day and so many other things to do with life apart from blogging. So I thought I should start a section where if I see something that I like when i’m browsing I can bookmark it and put it all in one post for your delectation and perusal.

Luke Akehurst on Energy

Harry Barnes on why he isn’t a Bennite

Transition Culture on peak oil

TMP on Trevor Phillips

Rupa Huq blames the SDP

Robert Reich on a multitude of things

Dave Osler on the Respect Split and modern Marx

It appears that John Pugh (Lib Dem) is mounting (if that is the right word) a valiant if misguided attempt to stop his Southport constituency turn into Sexport before his “horrified” voters eyes as a the Trills and Spills swingers club is set to open its doors this weekend.

The Lib Dem MP wants Merseyside police to stop what they were going to do this weekend and as they are the police I can’t imagine it would be anything important like stopping crime and instead stop consenting adults having sex. Quite how he squares this with being a “Liberal” Democrat is beyond me but I suspect to reach the dizzy heights of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party he stopped asking such questions a long time ago.

This blog is unequivocally socially liberal when it comes to shagging. As long as it is between consenting adults the state should have no role. People are perfectly capable of deciding to do whatever they want with people who they choose. Indeed politicians rank only marginally below Roman Catholic priests or possibly Jimmy Saville as people you would never want to get advice from on such matters.

UPDATE: It appears here that the Liberal Democrats aren’t Liberals at all. Who would have thought it?