Talking Politics
  • The conventional wisdom in politics is almost always wrong and so it proved last night. Most commentators predicted that the BBC leaders’ debate would be a disaster for Miliband and an open goal for Nigel Farage. The opposite turned out to be the case.

    As the only candidate with any chance of becoming prime minister, Miliband inevitably came under fire from all sides. But rather than crumbling as many predicted, Miliband remained calm, reasoned and persuasive throughout.

    Farage’s performance on the other hand was all over the place. It started off well enough as he played the candidate “saying what you’re all thinking at home”.

    But rather than bank this camaraderie with the audience, Farage instead decided to turn on them, accusing them of “bias” against him. The huge jeers and boos that followed destroyed any good feeling that Farage might otherwise have received.

    As the debate went on, things only got worse for Farage and better for Miliband. While Farage ranted about an EU army,

    Read More »from BBC Debate: Miliband scores and Farage misses
  • ‘Believe in Britain’ states the front page of Ukip’s manifesto. Yet the truth is that Ukip do not really believe in Britain. In fact they don’t even seem to like it very much.

    At best Ukip believes in a Britain which never really existed. A Britain of bland food and pale faces. A Britain where the roads are all empty, and the voices are all English.

    Most of all they believe in a Britain where people like Nigel Farage are in control. When the Ukip leader declared that “we want our country back” he meant it quite literally.

    Ukip’s version of Britain is a mean-spirited and selfish place. It’s a country where the sick are turned away from hospitals and the world’s most destitute people are left to fend for themselves.

    At their manifesto launch yesterday, Farage was asked by a Telegraph journalist why the only black face in the document was in the section on overseas aid. The question was met with shouts of “shame” from Ukip supporters with senior figures later complaining about the

    Read More »from Nigel Farage believes in a Britain which doesn't exist
  • By Frances Brill

    Yesterday David Cameron announced an expansion of The Right to Buy. This expansion means the policy now includes housing associations. Some 1.3 million more people will be entitled to buy their social housing.

    Right to Buy was one of the most successful political strategies of the twentieth century. Granting long term council house tenants the right to buy their homes effectively converted lifelong Labour supporters to vote for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives in the 1980s. The policy cashed in on the British homeownership fetish and meant the working classes of Britain could get on the property ladder. It forever changed the British political landscape, as Thatcher boasted to her Labour rivals. Thousands of Labour supporters would now vote for the new party of the working family: the Conservatives.

    Yesterday’s expansion builds on this. The Conservative manifesto and the speeches which accompanied it emphasised the ‘working’, the 'British’ and the 'family’. It

    Read More »from Right to Buy might win votes – but it will make the housing crisis worse
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    On the face of it, there is much for liberals to admire in the Liberal Democrat manifesto. They want to introduce a time limit for immigration detention. They want smaller, local prisons; a digital bill of rights to protect internet users against security agencies; a second freedom bill to counteract heavy-handed policing of protests and protect free speech.

    The cynical response is to ask whether they will do any of these things and it must be said that the cynical response is the most sensible one.

    For a start, these liberal issues appear almost as a footnote. Nick Clegg didn’t even mention them during his speech. He focused almost exclusive on education and mental health – both fine causes, but not specifically liberal ones. Once you access the manifesto online, the order of priorities is quite clear. Most prominent is the economy, then health, education, tax, climate change, the environment, jobs and welfare, young people, pensions and then, finally, at the end, the issues liberals

    Read More »from This manifesto shows the Lib Dems have given up on liberalism
  • The policies contained within the Green party’s manifesto are a mixture of the good, the well-intentioned, the woolly and the illiberal.

    First the popular bits. Among many other things, the Greens promise to scrap tuition fees, cancel all student debt, end all foreign wars, end NHS privatisation, nationalise rail, build 500,000 council houses, control rents, increase pensions and reverse public sector cuts.

    They also promise to do some fairly liberal and sensible things on immigration and the criminal justice system, with pledges to dramatically reduce the prison population, relax migration and refugee restrictions, and decriminalise drug use.

    But there are also some rather illiberal and paternalistic policies in there. Among other things the Greens would look at restricting horse and dog racing, impose “a complete ban on cages for hens and rabbits” in farms, a ban on all circus animals and all hunting for sport. This attraction to banning extends to culture, with a pledge to prevent the

    Read More »from Green manifesto: A mixture of the good, the well intentioned and the illiberal
  • Finally the Tories have done the right thing and targeted the aspirations of the working class. But because it is the modern Tory party, they have done so in a way which worsens the situation for everyone but a tiny group of targeted voters.

    Today’s Right to Buy proposal comes with a promise that housing associations will build to replace the homes sold off, although housing associations themselves aren’t fans and are unlikely to do as they’re told. This is a quite mad solution. It is a response to a crisis of supply which further limits supply. It is like throwing food in the bin because your child is hungry. It just doesn’t make sense, apart from in the most limited, cynical, electioneering manner.

    There are plenty of ways of targeting aspirational working class voters without worsening the situation for everyone. The most obvious is to cut their taxes. People on lower incomes are very useful recipients for tax cuts because they tend to spend money and circulate it around the system.

    Read More »from Right to Buy is a short-term solution for a short-term Tory party
  • Has Labour lost its drive to tackle child poverty?

    Labour’s manifesto says it will “never forget” the importance of tackling child poverty - but is not extending the 2020 target.

    Today’s document stands in stark contrast to New Labour’s commitment to eradicating child poverty for good by 2020.

    The 13 years presided over by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown saw a “broad-based approach” that was “significant and long-lasting”, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) concluded back in 2012.

    Child poverty was cut back at a scale and pace which was simply better than any other industrial nation during that period - even if Labour missed its 2010 interim target.

    That didn’t stop it sticking with the policy in its 2010 general election manifesto. It stated:

    “No child should have to grow up in poverty. The current pressures on the personal finances of families make the goal of ending child poverty more urgent than ever. So we will continue to make progress towards our historic goal of ending child poverty by 2020, building on the 2010 Child Poverty Act.”

    Read More »from Has Labour lost its drive to tackle child poverty?
  • Ed Miliband’s relationship with the press started badly and has got progressively worse.

    His selection as Labour leader ran counter to the predictions of most newspapers, most of which had strongly backed his brother.

    His subsequent attack on News International over phone hacking, plus his strong support for the Leveson proposals, means that he now enters the short campaign facing an overwhelmingly hostile media.

    Be it the Daily Mail attacking his love life, or the Sun making nob-jokes about his election debate performance, Miliband has been attacked from all sides. This hostility has not just come from the traditionally Tory-supporting press either. When leadership speculation mounted against him towards the end of last year, even normally Labour-supporting publications came out against him.

    Yet somehow he has survived and current polls suggest that Miliband remains likely to be the next prime minister either as leader of the largest party or with the support of others.

    If this happens

    Read More »from Is Ed Miliband plotting his revenge on the press?
  • As campaigning steps up another gear, voters are starting to come across election leaflets – and using social media to mock them.Even the slightest slip-up attracts derision. And some candidates don’t appreciate it when their leaflets start attracting attention for the wrong reasons.

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    If a little typo like that one gets a leaflet on TV, a major howler like this from Labour couldn’t possibly hope to escape criticism.

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    Sometimes errors result in rather embarrassing climbdowns…

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    … and sometimes candidates resort to slightly odd methods to correct them.

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    But leaflets don’t need to contain errors to get noticed. Simply featuring someone who’s very much not on your side can be a little unfortunate.

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    There’s a bit of a theme in this election of candidates studiously failing to publicise who their leader is. Especially if that leader is Nick Clegg.

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    Dan Rogerson, another Lib Dem incumbent, goes even further in his literature by barely mentioning his party:

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    … And it’s not just the Lib Dems who are at

    Read More »from The most embarrassing election leaflets of 2015
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    The steady-as-she-goes election campaign of Lynton Crosby looks like it may be beginning to fall apart.

    The first hint came on Wednesday, when Labour’s out-the-blue non-dom announcement rocked the Tories. Those party spokespeople unfortunate enough to be scheduled for media appearances that day struggled to answer questions on it. Party HQ was clearly wrong-footed. It couldn’t make up its mind to support or oppose it. Eventually it settled on promoting a video of Ed Balls – never a useful individual, no matter what the scenario – once saying it would cost the UK money, but their decision to snip off the end of the video, where he struck a rather different note, muddied the water still further. They got lost in process, when what they needed was message clarity.

    The Labour policy demanded a clear response so the Tories wouldn’t get trapped where the opposition wanted them – as the party of the rich. They failed to find it.

    The next day, defence secretary Michael Fallon wrote a seriously

    Read More »from Are the wheels coming off the Tory campaign?

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