Talking Politics

  • This is how David Cameron will address the National Security Council today:

    “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”

    This, incredibly enough, is how the prime minister is opening his argument for protecting British values. In fact, these words were released in advance to the media, suggesting he does not see the irony. What he has described above is as effective a definition of British values as exists. It is a free society: follow the law and the state will leave you alone. It is remarkable that a supposedly Conservative politician would not recognise that.

    He now he plans to dismantle this notion in the name of British values. The government plans to interfere with legal behaviour.

    The details are still not clear and won’t get much clearer until the Queen’s Speech – or probably afterwards. But we do know three things: 1) that the definition of an extremist is being expanded 2) that the process

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  • After elections, the losers get a surge in membership. It seems ironic, but emotionally it makes perfect sense. In despondency, people need hope. So the Lib Dems have enjoyed a spike in membership sign-ups and many are talking about joining Labour.

    But Labour is not ready for people’s support. It remains a profoundly undemocratic party which goes out of its way to prevent its members having a say on policy. Why join a party interested in your money but not your voice?

    Labour was never particularly democratic. It reflected the authoritarianism of its socialist roots, in the same way the Tory party reflected the authoritarianism of its paternalist roots. Union barons wielded disproportionate influence, deciding at the stroke of a pen what their thousands of members apparently believed. Tony Blair and his predecessors worked hard to get rid of that union influence, but they were not democratic crusaders. Blair’s only concern was centrism – the road which he (rightly) believed led to Downing

    Read More »from Until Labour becomes democratic, it doesn't deserve your membership
  • The first move announced in the Cabinet reshuffle was in the justice post. Chris Grayling is off to become leader of the Commons and Michael Gove is to become justice secretary and lord chancellor.

    Gove is one of those figures with an army of detractors marching in his wake. I can’t ever remember teachers particularly liking an education secretary, but I’ve never seen them hate one with such passion, apart from perhaps David Blunkett. There’s therefore been a bit of ‘here we go’ greeting the announcement. That’s premature. Gove’s appointment is cause for cautious optimism. He is a far more impressive and respectable choice for the post than his predecessor.

    The education secretary’s free schools project is not, as some of its critics suggest, some act of wanton vandalism in the name of improving standards only for those who least need them. It is a sensible project conducted with too much zeal to be successful. Gove got a bit lost in his ideological fever and couldn’t countenance the

    Read More »from How dangerous will Michael Gove be at the Ministry of Justice?
  • Blairism offers no hope for Labour

    The opening stages of the great Labour post-mortem were pretty predictable. All those tired old New Labour figures came out the woodwork saying they’d been right all along and Ed Miliband was punished for being too left wing. Their opponents replied that shifting to the right hardly seemed the right way to address the party’s total destruction in Scotland.

    Neither is right, but both sides have a point. Surely Scotland proves that Labour needs to reconnect to its left-wing roots. The confident, social democratic, anti-austerity message of Nicola Sturgeon was embraced with open arms by an electorate which felt Labour had become Tory-lite.

    On the other hand, perhaps figures like John Reid were not being so foolish when they suggested Labour needed a stronger message on immigration and ‘aspiration’ – that counter-intuitive code word getting the poor to vote against their economic interests. After all, the extent of the Ukip vote suggests that it came at the expense of Labour. Ukip came

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  • Labour have suffered their worst defeat for over twenty years. Now they seem intent on learning all the wrong lessons from it.

    On the right, many believe the reason Labour lost is because it had an agenda that was far too left wing. This argument is summed up by Tony Blair who claimed last year that when “a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, [you get] the traditional result”.

    Yet to describe Ed Miliband’s Labour party as “traditionally left-wing” is a gross parody of the truth. After all, this was a party which claimed to be tougher than the Tories on welfare and which chiselled plans to restrict immigration into an eight foot obelisk.

    More importantly it was, as Miliband repeatedly boasted, the only Labour party to ever go into an election promising to slash spending. Unlike Blair himself, who devoted his three successful election campaigns to opposing Tory cuts, Miliband and Ed Balls largely accepted the need for cuts and only differed with the

    Read More »from The real reasons the Tories won and Labour lost
  • A protestor's poster promises riots if the Conservatives win.

     

    Now we know the make-up of the next parliament, and the astonishing outcome of an election that has given David Cameron the chance to lead a Conservative-only Cabinet, we can start to build up a picture of what the next five years has in store for British politics.

    We treated the party manifestos differently in this campaign. Because of the nature of coalition compromises their policies were viewed as mere possibilities, not plausible outcomes. Suddenly that has all changed. The Tory manifesto is now the future of the UK. You can read it here – or just glance through the points below to get your head around what the future holds.

    Question-marks over Britain’s place in Europe and the world, and our internal unity as a country, will continue to hover over a Conservative government. Cameron has no choice but to stick to his promise of delivering an in-out referendum by 2017. He must hope to achieve a renegotiation with Brussels that convinces a majority of voters – not to mention a

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  • David Cameron has won a majority. The only seats left to call are ones he will certainly win. It’s a remarkable achievement, but one which actually makes his internal enemies in the Tory party much more powerful than they were before.

    Cameron will be extremely happy this morning and yet he is the victim of a horrible irony: by being so successful, he has reduced his majority. The big, reliable cushion he enjoyed in coalition with the Lib Dems died along with the party, which has been reduced to a handful of MPs.

    He is now much more vulnerable to rebellions. The right-wing Tory MPs who made his administration so chaotic in its first few years will be massively strengthened. They will be able to hold him hostage over every bill.

    Remember the ‘alternate Queen’s Speech’ of 2013, when Tory MPs like Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and Christopher Chope put forward a radical right wing agenda in the 'culture war’ mode? There were some remarkable ideas in there, like a ban on the burka, the

    Read More »from What happens next: Tory awkward squad will call the shots
  • The national picture has produced a surprising national result, but the last few hours have been equally shocking for the large number of big names whose political careers have been unceremoniously halted. Here’s our view of the top ten.

    Jim Murphy

    The Scottish Labour leader is arguably the highest –profile casualty of the night. He may not have been in government, but his task was to first stem the flow of votes from Labour to the SNP and then start clawing back the popularity lost in last year’s independence campaign. In that task he has spectacularly failed. He offered a gracious speech after being defeated and has vowed to continue in the job – but will not be doing so from the green benches of the Commons.

    Vince Cable

    It’s ironic , after so many column inches devoted to see his leadership machinations, that the man most visibly uncomfortable with being in government with the Conservatives won’t even be around to put himself forward as a successor to Nick Clegg. The business

    Read More »from General election 2015: The ten biggest scalps of election night
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    Nearly everyone got this election wrong – and now it’s time for the fallout.

    In the last week of campaigning one group of clever academic types adjusted their assessment of the chances of a hung parliament from 90% to 100%. Next to no-one thought a Conservative majority was possible.

    It seemed incredible at first, but the unthinkable has happened. Throughout this election campaign the experts have failed spectacularly. “It’s a disaster for the pollsters,” Professor Jon Yonge of the University of Liverpool told us.

    It wasn’t even that: many felt the combination of Labour and SNP MPs would provide an irresistible anti-Tory majority which would force David Cameron to resign. Instead the Conservative leader’s prospects of continuing to govern became irresistible as the Tory seats forecast rose.

    That means Britain is waking up to the following:

    David Cameron will remain in power as – for the first time since 1992 – a Conservative PM winning an overall majority.

    The SNP’s extraordinary swathe of

    Read More »from Just waking up? Here’s what Britain faces after a night of shocking election results
  • By Nick Smallman

    If you want to lead people, you need to connect with them. So why do many of the party leaders in 2015 find it so difficult?

    It’s sad, really, that in today’s world ‘how our leaders behave’ matters so much in an election campaign. Politics would be much simpler if it was just about policies. But leadership is about people and who they are. It matters - and it could end up deciding who comes out on top this week.

    You’d think that communicating would be something all our party leaders would be good at. Actually, we are living in a rather disappointing era of leadership communication. Gone are the giants of yesteryear like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Every time their successors go on TV they’re under pressure because they’re painfully aware that if they make a mistake they may lose votes.

    I’ve been studying the way human personalities get affected by stress and know that pressure can significantly damage communication. It affects leadership behaviours among my company’s

    Read More »from Connecting with voters: The secrets to electability and leadership

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