Talking Politics
  • Local elections are about local communities, of course. But these polls could have a direct impact on the behaviour of the coalition that governs us all.

    Looking back at developments over the 24 hours which have passed since polls closed, it's clear that Labour have achieved something around the top end of their expectations. Pressure on Ed Miliband's leadership has diminished rather than increased. The party has performed well in England, Scotland and Wales. And now, even if Ken failed to quite get over the finish line, London can be added to that list too. This was a good set of elections for the Labour party.

    The Conservatives, by contrast, have suffered one of their toughest nights in recent years. In 15 years, in fact: they were fighting seats won in their 2008 high-water mark, in broadly urban seats, after two years of being in government at a time of tough spending cuts. The party had a mixed performance in the north of England - mostly bad - and failed to offset those setbacks

    Read More »from After May 3rd’s voting, coalition politics just got harder
  • No matter how many gains Labour secures, Ed Miliband does not look like a prime minister in waiting. He looks like a Lego man, unable to compete with David Cameron's easy charm.

    Labour's gains tonight are significant but, at the time of writing, they are not of a scale which suggests an impending general election victory. Even if they did, one should always be wary of translating local council fights into a general election.

    But Ed Miliband could be prime minister by 2015 because of a unique combination of factors: An incompetent government, a resurgent United Kingdom Independence party (Ukip), a divided Tory party, a hung parliament result, an unpopular austerity package and continued economic decline.

    Much has been written about Miliband's weaknesses, but consider for a moment the accomplishments of the Conservatives. They have not won a general election since 1992. They failed to do so even against a deeply unpopular Labour party which had been in power for 13 years. Cameron has

    Read More »from Whisper it – Ed Miliband could be prime minister
  • There's a lot of confusion over how the phone-hacking villains at News International can be punished. But it's really very simple: they must be humiliated in the Commons bear-pit.

    MPs on the culture, media and sport committee were sure of one thing and utterly uncertain about another. Yes, they were convinced that News International's Les Hinton, Colin Myler and Tom Crone had misled parliament. No, they didn't have the foggiest what that meant. We are in somewhat uncharted waters, they quavered. Let the rest of the Commons deal with it.

    In fact the position isn't that complicated. Calls for contempt of parliament to be made a criminal offence are missing the point that parliament is already capable of punishing any recalcitrant individual it judges to have been guilty of misdeeds. By misleading MPs on the media committee, Myler, Crone and Hinton have all committed contempts of parliament.

    There's no doubt that is the case. So if the Commons accepts this and passes a motion accordingly,

    Read More »from How to punish Murdoch’s misleading cronies
  • What they agreed on, what they argued over, and what happens next: picks over the bones of today's report by MPs into the phone-hacking scandal.

    The headline is punchy - more so than most had expected. Effectively demanding that Rupert Murdoch should no longer be in charge of a major company controlling large sections of the British media is a much bolder call than most select committees have made at any time in their history.

    But that's because most select committee reports are the result of painstaking compromise. Unanimity is what makes these reports so useful; but that unanimity was not achieved on this occasion. The report as a whole was opposed by Conservative MPs on the committee, which makes interpreting it a little more complex than usual. Here's an attempt to unpick the committee's findings into what was agreed on, where the divisions lie and - critically - what will happen next.

    What they agreed on

    The terms of the inquiry were, compared to the broad reach of

    Read More »from Everything you need to know about the media committee’s phone-hacking report
  • By Gideon Skinner, head of politics at Ipsos Mori

    As David Cameron said last week on the Today programme, it's time for the government to "raise their game". By quite how much is made clear by Ipsos Mori's latest political monitor for the Evening Standard. Approval ratings for David Cameron and the government have fallen to their lowest point, after weeks of negative reaction to the Budget, the handling of Abu Qatada's deportation, and internal divisions over what the coalition parties stand for.

    If we look underneath the topline figures, we find some interesting stories about what might be driving these changes. After a long time in which Ed Miliband has been criticised for his lukewarm ratings amongst Labour voters, there are now some signs that it's the Conservatives who are feeling some chill winds from their own base.

    Just before the Budget, two-thirds of Conservative supporters were happy with the way the government was running the country, and an impressive 81% were satisfied

    Read More »from Tories are very vulnerable ahead of this week’s elections
  • Photo: Getty ImagesDavid Cameron sees the Leveson inquiry as an "opportunity" to reassess the relationship between the media and politicians. But his desperate political positioning to save Jeremy Hunt only underlines the likelihood that nothing is likely to change.

    The situation, as the prime minister made very plain on a TV sofa this morning, is very simple. It doesn't matter that Lord Justice Leveson is refusing to have anything to do with the question of whether ministers are behaving badly. What matters is that Hunt is going to answer questions, under oath, in front of a judge.

    He'll be questioned about the inappropriate communications which emanated from his office with News Corporation during its attempt to takeover broadcaster BSkyB. How much did he know about the behaviour of his special adviser, Adam Smith, whose actions he condemned so uncompromisingly in the Commons last Wednesday? If it can be shown that he knew exactly what Smith was up to, he'll have to go.

    The problem is one of process.

    Read More »from David Cameron plays judge and jury over the fate of Jeremy Hunt
  • Photo: ThinkstockBritain's economic recession is being matched by a political one made much, much worse by the coalition. Clegg and Cameron's dream of a 'new politics' is turning into a nightmare.

    For years politicians have moaned about the public being increasingly disinterested in them. What has been a slow-burning problem is now rapidly turning into a crisis.

    On the day that the Office for National Statistics confirmed that Britain has entered a double-dip recession, a separate set of statistics proved equally shocking.

    If the latest findings of the Hansard Society's Audit of Political Engagement are anything to go by, our society's malaise is about much more than just GDP growth.

    It has found that the percentage of people who are interested in politics has slumped to just 42%, down 16 points in the last 12 months. Three in ten people are unlikely or definitely not going to bother voting at the next general election. Less than half think parliament debates issues of relevance to their daily lives.

    Read More »from Britain’s decline is about much more than just money
  • By Ian Dunt

    James Murdoch's extraordinary evidence session at the Leveson inquiry has left media secretary Jeremy Hunt on the brink. Can he survive?

    What has Hunt done?

    Jeremy Hunt, the culture, media and sport secretary, was handed responsibility for News Corp's BSkyB bid after Vince Cable was caught boasting about being "at war with Murdoch" to undercover journalists.

    Before he was even handed the file he was already on good terms with News Corp officials. But even as he held a quasi-judicial role in the process, information was being regularly communicated by his staff to the media company.

    The key figure is Frédéric Michel, News Corp's public affairs executive. The evidence from Leveson came from a stack of emails from Michel to James Murdoch. In them, he appears to be receiving highly confidential information from George Osborne's special adviser, Rupert Harrison, and Hunt's special adviser, Adam Smith.

    What was in the emails?

    Once Murdoch realised that Cable would not meet him to

    Read More »from What has Jeremy Hunt done and can he survive?
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we need look no further. In Russell Brand, Britain has just found its next prime minister.

    Russell Brand as he prepares to face the committee (Copyright: WENN)

    An improbable suggestion, you might think. But this morning Brand revealed he has what it takes to sweep boring old Westminster aside as he gave evidence to a committee reviewing the Government's drug policy. Yes, he's an oddball, looking and sounding utterly different to your everyday backbencher. But the basic skills needed to be a success at the ballot box were all there. This one, the talent scouts of Whitehall will be whispering, has got what it takes.

    This was not immediately apparent when proceedings began shortly after 11:30 this morning at the House of Commons.

    In walked Brand, surprisingly tall, like lots of celebrities. He walked like someone who is incredibly cool - again, utterly alien to life in Westminster. He wore a long flowing coat, to match his long flowing black hair. His eyes twinkled with amusement. The staid MPs of the home affairs committee looked

    Read More »from Why Russell Brand should be Britain’s next prime minister
  • Photo: Parliament

    Ministers must avoid a referendum at all costs if they are to succeed in reforming the House of Lords. But that doesn't mean the public doesn't deserve one.

    A lot is at stake here. More than just the fortunes of the coalition, whose deputy prime minister has a lot of political capital staked on this reform. More than just the future jobs of the peers who currently inhabit the red benches of the Lords. This is about a huge change in the nature of the upper House, creating a dual-headed monster of a parliament whose behaviour would be very far from certain.

    This isn't a policy issue, like the massive shakeup of the NHS, where the coalition was able to get its head down and eventually get its way. This is a change to the powers of the Lords and, by extension, the Commons. It will have just as big an impact on who runs this place as the electoral reform referendum held last year. So the public have the right to be consulted.

    Yes, referenda are not cheap to hold. But the current era of

    Read More »from Public must be given their say on Lords reform


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