Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The Polls explained

There was no PMQs today because the house has been prorogued. A fancy word for MPs saying we have been on holiday for a few months, come back for a couple of weeks and need a another short break before Parliament's official state opening in a week's time. Good work if you can get it. Why Parliament can not just officially open when they all come back after summer recess, I don't know. This does give me a chance, however, to use my Wednesday afternoon PMQs battle time for a quick analysis of today's poll...

The new ICM poll out today again muddies the water with trying to understand what is going on with the three political parties and their support. There are two things that are becoming clear:

Firstly: The Tories have regained at least some of their pre-Brown position and are "in the game".

Secondly: The Lib Dems will make a recovery of some degree in the post-Ming era.

While the headlines are that the Tories are five points ahead of Labour in the latest poll, the real story is not so clear. The big mistake (either deliberate or otherwise) that some in the media make is that they compare different pollsters (e.g. a ICM with a YouGov) and that they compare the difference between the parties. This can give a misleading view on what is happening. There are two key factors to take in to account when looking a the polls.

Firstly you should only compare like for like pollsters. Each pollster has it's way of collating its data, hence they are all giving slightly different pictures. To say that Labour have gone up 2% in the polls over night because one day in a YouGov poll they have 38% (for example) and then the next day in an ICM poll they have 40% is simply not true and very misleading.

Secondly, while what most people want to know is how far ahead one party is from another, it is not always (if ever) the best way to view a poll. It is far more important to view what a party's share is in the current poll compared to what it was in the previous poll.

I will put this in to practice for today's ICM poll. Yes the Tories are now 5% ahead of Labour, but it also shows that they have lost 3% of their vote - to the Lib Dems. Labour are also down - but only 1% - again it looks like this has gone to the Lib Dems, who are up 4% to 18%. The previous poll showed the Tories were 7% (they are down 2% in the current poll) ahead of Labour - and while this is of course an important piece of information, in the longer term the drop of 3% in the Tory vote to the Lib Dems is far more critical.

While this poll is a good spin for the Tories, reading between the lines they have dropped in the polls and the votes are going to the Lib Dems at a ratio of 3:1 compared with Labour. This is exactly what the Tories want to avoid. The Lib Dem rise in the polls is likely to continue - possibly up to another 5-6%. This has to come from either Labour or the Tories - whoever it comes to will be in the stronger position. Today's poll suggest that it more likely to go to Labour. However, as I said in yesterday's Politics Decoded column, it is still far too early to say very much at all for sure...

To put it another way, even though the Tories have surged from the low 30s to the low 40s in the past six weeks, the Labour vote has still held fairly strong. So yes Labour were about 8% ahead of the Tories a few weeks ago and are now about 5% behind - they haven't actually lost much of their vote at all. In fact, in 2005 Labour polled 35% in the general election and won by 66 seats. Given the efficient spread of the Labour vote, it is far more important to look at what Labour are polling rather than how far ahead or behind they are the Tories they are.

The Poliblogs 31 October 2007

Gove hits home

Gordon Brown won't enjoy Michael Gove's 6000 word dissection of his character, but he should read it. It's going to be the set text for the Tory critique of the Brown premiership in the months to come. The Aberdonian one has the brain capacity to match the man from Kirkaldy, which is why he's been assigned by David Cameron to take on the Clunking Fist. Where Mr Brown used plentiful references to great thinkers to bolster his historian's appreciation of British liberty in his speech last week, Mr Gove cited his own exemplars from the past to argue that Mr Brown's is a government "doomed to disappoint", hollow behind a facade of stunts and "empty exercises in manipulation".

Ben Brogan

They'll Take The High Road. Maybe

Alex Salmond says we should go our separate ways, with Scotland taking the oil. But would Scotland be any better off? According to Tyler's fag packet, a fiscally independent Scotland looks like this (2006-07 figures- for derivation see footnote):

Burning Our Money

So Much Hot Air

Yesterday, Mr Benn (Hilary of that ilk, clearly a diminutive of Hilarious) delivered himself of a ‘major speech’ on Britain’s Low Carbon Future. Given the fatuous position of the Government we have drawn attention to many times, did he start with an apology for testing our collective patience over the years with infeasible ‘commitments’, followed by a promise to stop the pretence forthwith? No: he proposes to plough on regardless, starting with this:

The CityUnslicker

Trick or Treaty?

It is considered ‘unparliamentary’ to accuse an honourable or right honourable member of the House of Commons of lying or misleading the House, but when the evidence becomes overwhelming, Cranmer thinks it worth inciting the Speaker, not least because his judgement on this issue may well be worth invoking.


The class politics of immigration controls

Two New Labour cabinet ministers have been wrong-footed after there turned out to be 300,000 more foreign nationals working in the UK than official figures had earlier suggested. The total is 1.1m, and not the 800,000 previously reported. Officially, home secretary Jacqui Smith and Peter Hain, her counterpart at the Department of Work and Pensions, are simply waxing apologetic because of the statistical cock-up. And of course, if we are going to have official statistics at all, they should be reliable statistics.

Dave’s Part

Keep the blue flag flying

David Cameron is riding a wave of Conservative support. But he needs all of his skills to keep the party united on tax and Europe.

Tim Montgomerie

Tories and Labour remain united in self interest over party funding

Talks have apparently collapsed ending any hope of a deal on party political funding, meaning that Lord Ashcroft (the former Belize ambassador ???) will remain the Tories major supplier of Tories funds and the unions will continue to bankroll Labour.

Norfolk Blogger

Three party politics is (officially) alive and well...

The cry of those would subdue us in recent weeks has been: “who cares?” “what are the Lib Dems for” etc. Radio presenters of phone in shows have asked their audiences “Is the departure of Ming Campbell a suitable juncture for the Lib Dems to curl up and die?” Well, now we have hard statistics with which to round on our detractors and show that far from being cast to the periphery, the public of Britain still believe us to be a significant force in British Politics.

Liberal Landslide

Blair's last reshuffle

More fascinating stuff today from Anthony Seldon's new "Blair Unbound" biography currently being serialised in The Times. Today's excerpt reveals he planned to make Charles Clarke Foreign Secretary in his last big reshuffle in May 2006, but was persuaded against it following Clarke's mishandling of the row over the deportation of foreign prisoners.

Paul Linford

Lib Dems recovering in ICM/Guardian poll

ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian had topline figures, with changes from their last poll for the Sunday Telegraph in mid-October, of CON 40%(-3), LAB 35%(-1), LDEM 18%(+4).

Polling Report

ICM finds support for UKIP down to ZERO percent

On June 10th 2004 in the last European elections, UKIP received 2.7 million votes and gained twelve seats in the European Parliament. Their national vote share of just under 17% put them in third place ahead of the Lib Dems and all the talk was of the party doing terrible damage to Michael Howard Conservatives in the ensuing general election. When that vote came, just eleven months later, the party received a paltry 618,000 votes which amounted to less than 2.4% of the national vote. It did not win any Westminster seats although it’s argued that the performances of their candidates in key marginals cost the Tories a clutch of seats.

Political Betting

Working Immigrants And Lazy-Arse Britons

More than half of new jobs created in the last decade have gone to immigrants. I have no problem with the immigrants coming in and working. They are coming here and doing the jobs which are available, helping our economy expand.

But I do have a problem with the millions of Britons who just sit on the dole, rather than taking these jobs for themselves.

The Thunder Dragon

Show us your vision, Gordon

Gordon Brown called off an election to show us his vision. It's time he started doing so. When Gordon Brown told Andrew Marr he wouldn't go to the country this year - nor next - in order to renew Labour's mandate to govern, he said:

Labour Home

Why are trains left-wing, and cars conservative?

Here's a brief thought on a question that continues to baffle me. Transport, as it is unexcitingly called, is one of the most important responsibilities of government. Run well, it can make a whole country more civilised and more enjoyable. Visit Switzerland if you want to see what I mean. The Zurich trams are so good, reliable, clean, safe, comfortable and swift that businessmen leave their Mercedes at home. Clean, regular, reasonably-priced trains hurry from everywhere to everywhere punctually and at satisfying speeds. Result, pleasanter, cleaner, more spacious cities and a more unspoiled countryside, happier people, more efficient business, plus a general feeling of sociability, missing where everyone is in a private box.

Peter Hitchens

Politics Decoded: Salmond the Propaganda Minister, A Glimpse in to the future? And The Royal End Game

Here is my weekly column from the Wardman Wire, posted there every Tuesday morning...

Salmond the Propaganda Minister, A Glimpse in to the future? And The Royal End Game

The Impact of Salmond

The West Lothian Question is hardly a new concept. It has been around since the 1970s – yet for the first time its implications have changed it from a hypothetical question to a very real one. It has taken eight years since devolution was first passed down to Scotland for it to really become an issue – but why has it taken so long? The obvious answer is because the English are fed up with the Scots getting the better deal. But if that was the case, why has it taken so long to get to this point? The answer is because Alex Salmond is now the First Minister of Scotland.

Propaganda Merchant

On the surface it does seem deeply unfair that Scottish MPs get to vote on English matters but not vice versa. But this was just something that bothered a few people and in practice it didn’t really make much difference. The reason that the debate has now really picked up is because Alex Salmond is pushing the boundaries, exaggerating the unfairness and causing an unpalatable friction between England and Scotland. He knows that there is not enough appetite north of the border for independence – hence he didn’t win a majority government and why the polls consistently tell us that most Scots want to keep the union. Therefore his best hope is to push the boundaries of the system and make the English want rid of the Scots.

Some may call the strategy the work of a genius politician; I tend to think it is underhand, unpleasant propaganda and fits the mould of a sleazy, devious politician. The man is just a level below inciting racial friction, in my opinion, for his own personal political means – he wants the English to hate the Scots for “stealing all our money” and he wants the Scot’s to hate the English for “300 years of rule”.

Playing in to Salmond’s hands

Nothing good can come out of this situation – except Alex Salmond succeeds in securing his own hubris inspired political empire. However it may be now that we have gone too far down the road. The Tories are suggesting that we need English only votes, claiming it will be a fairer system and also help preserve the Union. I do not see how this can be the solution however. While there is a problem, any solutions actually creates even bigger problems. How many times are we seriously going to have English only votes? And who is setting the agenda here? Gordon Brown and a load of other Scottish MPs in the Cabinet. We all know that ever since Tony Blair shifted the goal posts it is the executive, not parliament that makes law in this country. It will mean, however, we are a step closer to complete independence. By having English only votes both Scots and Englishmen alike are playing ever more in to Alex Salmond’s hands.

Not if but why?

I am sure that all this will be music to the ears of those who can’t stand the Union, but the logistical and practical issues will probably mean far reaching impacts on both out nations that will be of little benefit to either of us. What do we do with the armed forces? What happens to the Royals? What happens to our treaties? What about our shared infrastructure? What would happen to Wales and NI? What about our currency and our relationship with the EU? Most of all, what is the point? Yes Scotland gets a good deal out of the Barnet formula – but then again, the whole of the UK gets a good deal out of taxation redistribution bar a few London boroughs and a few other places around the country. Yes, love it or hate it, London pays for a lot of what happens in the UK – should it not be calling for independence? Of course not – but then again, they have not got a self-interested, political hungry maniac manipulating the welfare state to rile up tensions. The only thing that needs to change is Salmond’s attitude and if necessary reduce his ability to manipulate the people and system.

I am not questioning whether we should break up the Union or not - if there is genuine appetite for a change the in the Union, then I am all behind that – but waging an underhand, misinformed propaganda war for the sake of a man with delusions of grandeur? Leave me out of it.

Shock in the Polls – a glimpse in to the future?

The new Poll out today makes very interesting – and surprising – reading. The Tories look to be holding firm their position in the low 40s. This despite a surge (or at least small hop) in the polls for the Lib Dems to 16%. I have been predicting an increase in the Lib Dem vote would be at the expense of the Tory vote. As it happens, it appears it might be at the expense of the Labour vote which has dropped 4% to 33%.

It is far too early to read anything in to this other than it is the first possible glimpse that the implications of the conference season and non-election are at the worst case scenario end of the scale for Brown. Of course – it is far too early to say anything for sure and this poll comes hot on the heels of yesterday’s MORI poll that actually had Labour in front by 1%. But if the implication that the inevitable recovery of the Lib Dem vote is going to come at the expense of Labour and not the Tories, then Gordon Brown is in for an even more uncomfortable few months than he would have already been dreading.

Royal Dissent

We don’t seem to get Royal scandal stories like we used to. Probably because we don’t care about them so much now. However, the latest scandal involving an an-named royal whose name is all over the internet, whisks us back to the days of Diana, Camilla, Fergie and toe sucking Texans. Of course, no-one does really care who the gobbling, coke snorting fool is nearly as much as we might have done ten or fifteen years ago because attitudes have changed. We are not surprised if Harry slips out for a spliff and a quick fight with a paparazzi anymore. It’s what all kids are doing, no? Let’s hope the goon who tried to set up the human example of Rumsfeld’s known-unknown gets all what he deserves.

On the same note – I couldn’t give a monkey’s if Mr X is unmasked officially by the press. I have always been a pro-royalist, but my patience is fast running out. What is the point of the vast majority of them – we don’t even care if they act out their debauched lifestyles anymore. And why should I chip in to Harry’s three and half grand bar bill anymore? I am getting the distinct feeling that come the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the game could be up for the rest of these no-hopers. I think they’d be doing us a favour if they stepped down and we’d be doing them one too if we asked them to.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The Poliblogs 30th October 2007

Lower the Last Red Flag

The proposal for a Grand Committee dealing with English and Welsh affairs and excluding Scottish -seated Westminster MPs from the vote is not enough. It relies on third readings being nodded through by the entire United Kingdom Commons as a constitutional practice - and constitutional practice has been shredded under NewLabourNewTwighlight , we have even a Lord Chancellor who sits in the Lower House not the Lords - and can never be relied upon again.

Angels in Marble

England, Scotland and voting

If you set fire to your house, you can't blame the firemen for getting your carpet wet when the try to put it out. Labour's attempts to divide and conquer have left us with an appalling political mish-mash. Our relationship with Scotland is becoming increasingly strained, somehow both the Scots and the English feel hard done by and the sibling rivalry could ultimately become attempted fratricide.

James Cleverly

The English Question

And there’s more. Also at the weekend, it was suggested that the Conservatives are set to favour Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s suggested answer to the West Lothian question. Sir Malcolm apparently feels that there is something lacking in the customary Labour Ministerial reply which, to paraphrase, is: “Go away and stop asking such irritating questions.”

Blether with Brian

England: the Tories’ new EU?

I don’t understand David Cameron. He had Gordon Brown on the ropes by doing and saying nothing, now he has declared his hand and it’s only taken a day for two Conservative MPs to come out in opposition to his preferred plan. The Democracy Task Force’s solution could be in disarray before it’s even published.

CEP News Blog

Thank Alex almighty, we'll be free at last!

In pushing for a referendum on devolution, the SNP is helping pave the way for an independent Scotland.

Angus MacNeil

A Bad Day To Bury Bad News

It's the end of the parliamentary year today. Traditionally the time when awkward announcements are slipped out by the government, in the hope that reporters are so snowed under by press releases, that any particular item does not get much exposure. But so far the recent run of ill luck is continuing for the Brown government.

Boulton & Co.

Immigration Shambles

So our clueless "government" has suddenly found another 300,000 economic migrants working in Britain. The news broke while the Immigration Minister, the brainy but lightweight Liam Byrne, was being interviewed on C4 News. He was giggling his way dismissively through Dave Cameron's long overdue pledge to cut immigration substantially, and he was completely blind-sided.

Burning Our Money

Gove Gouges Gordon

There is much excitement in Tory ranks today about a speech Michael Gove has just given to the Bow Group on Labour in the 21st Century. Gove is a rising star of the Shadow Cabinet; expect to hear some of his attack lines on Gordon Brown again and again in the coming months. Below, all in direct quotes, is potted version of what he had to say.

Boulton & Co.

Immigration: damned if you do; damned if you don’t

David Cameron has stepped into what has become a political minefield. To even broach the subject of immigration apparently renders the Conservative Party as odious as the BNP, yet what credible party of government can possibly leave the subject unattended? The UK is an island, with limited land, limited resources, finite housing, and finite public services. It is absurd to pretend that an annual net population increase of 200,000 can be sustained, especially if that increase – 2 million every decade – brings with it traditions, religion or other cultural manifestations and beliefs which are at variance with those of the United Kingdom.


We need a referendum on the whole sausage, not a slice of it

Would you be happy to see our MPs voting against the only EU referendum that’s on the table? It's the sort of question which brings a thin film of sweat to one's brow. But I have to be honest. Yes, I would be happy for our MPs voting against a referendum on a minor revising treaty. It’s nuts. But I agree, such a move would be the political equivalent of sticking one’s head in a gas oven - but sometimes you have to stand up for the truth.

Liberal Burblings

How proud am I of Vince Cable today?

Oh, very! I am grinning with pride and have been since I heard that Vince was going to be boycotting the Saudi Dictator’s visit to the UK! I remember years and years ago, sitting in an 'International Relations Theory' lecture and learning for the first time about the two different paradigms of nation state behaviour in an international setting. It is soo good to be part of a party that actually puts their commitment to internationalism into practice!!

Jo Christie-Smith

Like it or not defence policy must be debated again

Our current so-called ‘Trident’ policy is not a fudge. It is an acid drop, and we need to suck on it. That includes the current leadership candidates. The implications for our policy are clear. We voted in Parliament to delay Vanguard renewal (and were defeated). We now have an obligation as a party to carry out the clearly implied next stage of the agreed policy. That is, to debate now the position the UK should take at the upcoming negotiations and bring forwards firm recommendations. That is the acid logic of our position.


ComRes data: the biggest shift has been LAB>CON

Whenever a new poll comes out now the standard explanation from Labour observers is to observe that much of the change that has seen the Tories move above a 40% share in six consecutive surveys has been the result of Lib Dems switching. Once a replacement for Ming is in place, it is argued, then the Tories will decline. We saw that overnight with the Independent’s ComRes survey that had with changes on mid September - CON 41%(+7): LAB 33%(-4): LD 16%(+1). Yet looking at the detailed data the biggest move to the Tories has not been from the leaderless Lib Dems but from Labour.

Political Betting

ComRes gives the Conservatives an 8 point lead

A ComRes poll for the Independent tomorrow has topline voting intentions, with changes from their last poll, of CON 41%(+7), LAB 33%(-4), LDEM 16%(+1). In amongst the flurry of polls we’ve had over the last two months ComRes haven’t polled since mid-September, back before conference season began, so missed out on all of the Labour surge after their conference and the Conservative recover after theirs. The changes in this poll are across the whole of the party conference season and the non-election annoucement (one might well think this gives us a far better picture than pouncing on all the ups and downs in the last six weeks’ of polls. Maybe it does, but given the speculation over a possible general election polls during conference were inevitable this year).

Polling Report

What's this Bill of Rights and Duties for?

After reading all the articles about Gordon Brown's new Bill of Rights and Duties (or is it Responsibilities?), I decided I had better go and read both his speech and the more detailed follow up from Jack Straw. I'm still none the wiser. Matthew d'Ancona might have been impressed but I wasn't. Sure, Gordon name-checked enough political philosophers to make up an undergraduate reading list but he didn't give a clear description of what he actually plans to do.

Pub Philosopher

Is this the beginning of the end for Labour?

The Tory poll surge continues, the Foreign Secretary has gone freelance and Gordon Brown's authority is waning by the day. But who could have predicted that Brown would "make a better prime minister than Cameron, but that it may not prove enough to win him the next election."

The UK Daily Pundit

Politics Decoded

Take a look over at the Wardman Wire for my weekly Politics Decoded column tackling the issues of Alex Salmond, the most interesting of the post conference polls and the royal scandal...

Monday, 29 October 2007

The Weekend Poliblogs 27th & 28th October

Chris Huhne and whose army?

The Lib Dem leadership will be a closer affair than many people expect. Chris Huhne having run before and got a respectable 40 odd percent of vote is going to give Nick Clegg a decent run for his money. Indeed, Mike Smithson points out that today’s YouGov poll shows that Huhne has a slight edge over Clegg among Lib Dem supporters. Add to this the fact that Lib Dem activists tend to be a fairly left-wing lot who might find Clegg a little too right-wing for their tastes and it is not inconceivable that Huhne could pull off a surprise victory.

Coffee House

Necessary expenses?

MPs need to be accountable, but the way their expenses claims are reported in the press makes me uncomfortable.

Michael White

English Parliaments, Fairly Elected

I'm not a great fan of the asymmetric devolution practiced by Labour over the last ten years. Giving different powers to devolved assemblies and parliaments in different parts of the UK, and no devolution in much of England, whilst it isn't the constitutional atrocity the Tories claim, does keep the West Lothian question open and allow charges of intellectual inconsistency to be levelled.

Luke’s Blog

Twas Free Prescriptions what done it.

The slumbering giant that is England is on the move. Until this month the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament were but mere irritants. As Ken Stephens, one of my readers might say, they were no more than two teenagers who had left home, with possibly a bit more cash than mother thought they should have, not spending their money as mother would like. And this would have rumbled on - if the little Scottish one hadn't decided to rub mother's nose in it.

A view from Rural Wales

The treatment of Scotland and England

Alex Salmond has reason to feel pleased with his work. He has found a series of issues where Scotland can be given better treatment than England, based on the more favourable financial settlement. His intention is to use these issues to make English voters angry about the injustice of the Union settlement, so there is pressure for English - and therefore by definition for Scottish - independence from south of the border. It is beginning to have an impact.

John Redwood

Why should Scottish MPs vote on English matters?

In 1977, Tam Dalyell, the MP for West Lothian, asked for how long under Scottish/Welsh devolution, English MPs would tolerate Scottish MPs being able to vote on English matters, whilst they were unable to vote on Scottish matters.

Earthquake Cove

Money for Scotland

I was phoned yesterday by Scottish journalists aware of the growing disquiet in England about the more favourable financial settlement they receive north of the border. I was asked if the Conservatives would change the formula.

John Redwood

Getting personal

Apparently Gordon Brown has a real problem with David Cameron: he hasn't spoken to him privately in weeks. While nobody would expect the two to be soul mates, the level of animosity goes a bit further than that. But the reasons given are rather bizarre:

Conservative Party Reptile

Cameron promises coherent strategy to manage net immigration and its consquences

Later this morning David Cameron will deliver a speech on population and immigration. He'll be addressing the Policy Exchange think tank. I'll be there and will report with more afterwards.

Conservative Home

Why rights are wrong

Proposals for a new bill of rights and duties can only lead to trouble - it should be dropped from the government's plans for constitutional reform.

David Cox

Leadership is not about re-opening decisions every few months

Chris Huhne has announced he would seek to change our policy on Trident: to deciding now to scrap it in a few years time, rather that waiting until a decision on an upgrade actually becomes necessary.

Chris is consistent ont his issue. He had precisely the same position in the 2006 leadership election. But I think it is now a mistake.

Anthony Hook

Now Ipsos-Mori reports a one point Labour lead

Are we entering the era of Boat Race politics? The massive monthly face-to-face survey by Ipsos-Mori is out in the Observer this morning and shows that Labour, on 41% have just pipped ahead of the Tories on 40%. The actual figures with comparisons on a telephone survey from a sample of half the size from the same pollster a fortnight ago are CON 40%(-1): LAB 41%(+3): LD 13%(+2).

Political Betting

Tories and cigarettes

David Cameron has always refused to confirm or deny allegations about using drugs, but the New Statesman reports on a new rumour. Allegedly a picture of Cameron smoking an ‘oversized cigarette’ while at Oxford is doing the rounds.

Ridiculous Politics

Friday, 26 October 2007

The Poliblogs 26 October 2007

Electing independents isn’t the same as electing Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats have a tendency to sympathise with independent election candidates. I think it’s a mixture of the rebellious streak and the community campaigning instincts of Liberal Democrats. But I worry when Liberal Democrats actively support independent candidates either by encouraging them to stand or by standing aside to give them a free run at an election. That is why I am concerned by a posting made by Stewart Arnold on his blog.

Anders Hanson

My Two Cents...on hypocrisy

A few months ago an American shock-jock few of you will have heard of – Don Imus – was fired from his popular nationally syndicated show for describing some black female basketball players as “nappy headed hos”. In the Land of the Free where the First Amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of expression, that freedom of expression to be offensive only extends to certain privileged Americans such as Jesse Jackson, who infamously got away with referring to New York as “Hymie Town”.

Blaney’s Blarney

Jacks Straw's wrong Bill of rights.

Whilst the Conservatives are calling for the Human Rights act to be scrapped, Jack Straw is defending it. Straw says that scrapping the act in favour of a British Bill of Rights would cause delays as people would seek justice in the European courts. But surely the idea of scrapping the act would remove the ability to go to the European courts as we do now. This is the reason for getting rid of the Human Rights Act, it is the European courts in conjunction with the Act that have caused us so much anguish - the Human rights act is hardly ever used for the good of law abiding citizens.

Daily Referendum

Lib Dem calls Tory by mistake and outlines his secret plans

This has to be quite possibly the funniest thing I have read all day. Apparently, a Lib Dem councillor in Hexham called Derek Kennedy (pictured) meant to call his colleague Dougie Watkin but instead called the leader of the Tories on Tynedale Council, Michael Walton and left the following answerphone message.

Dizzy Thinks

Bill of rights? Bring it on

Good news that Gordon Brown wants a bill of rights. But it's one thing to promise, quite another to deliver.

Roger Smith

Bill of Rights should be for everyone

Stuart Weir (Cambridge, Democratic Audit): We should welcome Gordon Brown’s political predicament, for if he is regain the political high ground that he assumed on becoming Prime Minister, he now clearly needs to reassure liberal Britain that our liberties are safe in his hands. The government’s plans for a ‘British’ Bill of Rights have caused concern because it was possible that here was another political issue on which there would be cross-dressing with Cameron’s Tories, on a measure that would distinguish between ‘citizens’ and others in the protection of civil and political rights in the UK.

Our Kingdom

Energy Targets

I may be being ignorant, or naive, but I don't quite get this week's soft-pedaling on the renewable energy target. Not only do we have what most thinking people believe is the huge problem of climate change to deal with, but we also have two inter-related problems that will be looming even if some miracle happens and it turns out the scientists are all wrong, George W Bush is right (which on the track record seems unlikely), and climate change isn't as serious as expected:

Luke’s Blog

YouGov shows the Tory lead is being sustained

..and a boost for Huhne in his bid for the Lib Dem leadership

After the longest period without a national voting intention poll since August 2006 there’s the regular survey from the YouGov panel in the Daily Telegraph this morning which shows no change on the last poll from the firm almost two weeks ago. The headline figures are CON 41% (nc): LAB 38% (nc): LD 11% (nc)

Political Betting

YouGov - Brown now seen as indecisive and ineffective

YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph has topline voting intention figures, with changes from their last poll, of CON 41% (nc), LAB 38% (nc), LDEM 11% (nc). Clearly the figures are exactly the same as their last poll, conducted two and a half weeks ago for the Sunday Times. This is the first poll for almost a fortnight and, after a period of extreme volatility in the polls, it’s makes a change to find things so static. There was potential for the Conservatives to have continued moving head, or for their leads at the start of the month to be have been nothing but a brief recovery on the back of a horrid week for Gordon Brown.

Polling Report

Checking the expenses

In general I am not one who gets excited about the fact that MPs, AMs and MSPs need appropriate support to do the job they are elected for. Often this will require the provision of allowances to employ staff, run offices, to travel to and from the relevant Parliament and to stay away from home when necessary. However, there are grey areas and there are also differences between Parliaments that are difficult to justify.

Peter Black

40 Years On: No Compromise on a Woman’s Right to Choose

As the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Rights Act approaches, the usual religious suspect have crawled out of the woodwork to denounce women. This can be seen in the form of an “open letter” by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor and Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s contention that abortion’s are now “too easy to obtain”.

Shiraz Socialist

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Politics Decoded: Who cares about the EU anyway? More bottling and the Lib Dem Leaderzzzz

Here is my weekly column, Politics Decoded, that is published every Tuesday at The Wardman Wire:

Side-show Europe

So that was it then. Gordon Brown went to Portugal and sold us all out. Whatever protestations he makes over the semantics of an EU Treaty and EU constitution deep down he knows full well that he has broken an election manifesto promise.

OK, so he may secure his red-lines which are, we are told, drawn in the sand anyway and we will not lose any more sovereignty for another decade – which is just spin filled, meaningless clap trap. We are also told that Parliament will be given loads of time to debate the treaty; but we all know after that there will be no free vote, the Labour backbenchers will bottle it and the Tories will neither have the numbers nor inclination to be able to fight it down. In fact, as soon as they start to debate it all in Parliament, the Tories are very liable to split down Europhile and Europhobe lines. All this party politics at the expense of our sovereignty – yet no one gives a damn. The truth is: Europe is a side show and no one takes it seriously.

The Real issues we care about

Ask the average Joe in the street and they will not be able to name you a single practical implication of the treaty. They may be able to say something about sovereignty and French farmers taking all our money, but that will be the standard response to any question about the EU to a member of the British public. We instinctively hate it yet when it comes to talking about it or it having any impact on our voting intentions we seem to show remarkable ignorance and completely over look the issue. People care about the economy and health care, education and crime – dare I say, they care about personalities. They could not give a damn about Brussels or European elections. That is why Gordon Brown will get away with not holding a referendum. The Euro-steam roller relies on ignorance and apathy and while that is the case it will continue to keep on moving.

Apathy is the EU Politics of choice

Despite my rhetoric of the past few weeks, I am not actually fundamentally anti-Europe. In fact, I am on the whole in favour of a greater European integration. Europe has given us a great many number of benefits over the years. But, I am furiously against the back-door mentality that our government and other European governments have with regard to the EU. If it is all such a good idea, give us a democratic Europe and more immediately give us a vote on whether we want this treaty or not.

Most of all, stopping telling us lies and feeding us spin. Give us the information we need to make up our own minds about the EU. The reason there is such apathy is because no-one from either side of the debate is being straight with us. And it is in the interests of the government to get us interested, because while we may not give a damn about it right now, there is one thing that the European leaders and in particular Gordon Brown are doing and that is giving European politics a very bad name. It is also making Brown look like a sneaky, underhand politician. Yes they will get away with it, but at what cost in the future? One day we may well crack and demand a vote on our membership of the EU - and given the history of its underhand ways who would vote to stay in it? Why rush it through it now at any cost when you could get it right in future?

The media and electorate are watching and it may not be on European policy grounds the electorate turn, but on wider perceptions of unhand and sleazy politics. Brown is banking on us just not caring in a few months – the European way of doing politics it seems; I just hope it doesn’t stay that way.

Bottler Brown

So the latest installment in the Blair story by Dr Anthony Seldon claims that Ed Balls screamed at Mr Brown that he “bottled it” for failing to trigger a revolt against Tony Blair last year. I wonder how many more stories of Brown bottling it will come out over the coming months. Anyone who thought that he would shake the name off may well have to wait some time before the media have had their fun. It is convenient for the sake of the story that he was called a bottler and that does make me suspicious about how much truth there is in the detail – but it certainly shows that the mud is sticking! Dr Seldon’s latest installment looks to be full of fireworks – including the revelation that Ed Balls thought Mr Blair was moron and Brown threatening Blair with the line “If you don’t do what I ask, then there’ll be big trouble.” I bet Blair was shaking with fear as the clunking fist threw that empty promise at him. I wonder if this will tempt Blair to reconsider releasing his diaries before Brown finishes as PM?

Lib Dem Leadership Race

Clegg vs Huhne. Huhne vs. Clegg. Not much else to add – I much preferred the last one! Zzzzzz

The Poliblogs 25th October 2007

Even now, they don't get the point

Immigration is a subject that brings out the best and the worst – but usually the worst – in people, with its undertones of racism, xenophobia and "little Englanditis" all rolled into one. For that reason, it has been easy for the political classes to suppress discussion, simply by invoking the natural guilt at being associated with an anti-immigration agenda that is most often linked with extremists such as the BNP.

EU Referendum

Law Making Assembly on its way.

Yesterday saw the first step on the road to a law making National Assembly for Wales. Since the people of Wales voted in favour of devolution on Sept.18th 1997, I have believed this type of Assembly is the only logical constitution for Wales. The current arrangement is not worthwhile. Not all members of my own political party agree with me about this - but I genuinely believe that at some stage a majority will, and it will eventually become Conservative Party policy.

A View from Rural Wales

Brown is having tent trouble

When Gordon Brown first announced the outsiders he had recruited to his ‘ministry of all the talents’ there was much chuckling in Westminster about whether Digby Jones or Mark Malloch Brown would be the first minister to be sacked. Early on, Malloch Brown moved into pole position with an insufferably pompous interview in the Telegraph that caused Brown all sorts of problems in Washington and led to a public slapping down of the over-mighty junior by his boss David Miliband. But now Comrade Digby must be the bookie’s favourite.

Coffee House

Douglas Alexander is not guilty says Gordon Brown.

At long last former Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander has apologised for making a total hash of the May elections. However, Gordon Brown told the Commons that Douglas Alexander was not at fault and accused the Conservatives of misleading the people. If that is true, why did Dougie apologise? He told the house: "I, of course, apologise for any actions or omissions on my part which contributed to the problems encountered in the Scottish elections."

Daily Referendum

Who really cares about Europe?

Polls seem to suggest the EU is a big issue for voters. David Cameron should be wary, though, as the figures may be misleading.

Robert Philpot

The fine art of PMQs

Gordon Brown took another pasting in the Commons yesterday, so what is it about prime minister's questions that sets him stuttering?

Iain Dale

Brown Lost All Credibility Today

Today's PMQs has been rather overshadowed by the speaker having to call for temperate language from Gordon Brown (over an issue, by the way, on which Cameron was quite simply correct; there is a much greater responsibility incumbent on the minister who took a decision than on the parties who didn't object, which the report (pdf) makes pretty clear). But I thought it was just worth pointing out that Vince did rather better, to my mind, than he did last week.

Wouldn't It Be Scarier to Discover Everything You Believe is Absolutely Right?

Public Opinion

It appears that the recent highs the Tories experienced are down to very recent - and probably temporary - swings to the Conservatives from the Lib Dems. As recently as September, the Tories were polling at 33% with the LDs at 16%. My interpretation of that most recent poll is this: When presented with a possible general election - one that Labour was likely to win - more of the 62% of people that oppose the government decided to rally round the Conservatives as the best chance of preventing a Labour victory. It was, in effect, an instinctive and paniced reflex.

Charlotte Gore

Ming's masterstroke

David Cameron has now hoisted himself by his own petard. He's had to admit that once Brown/Parliament have ratified the latest EU Treaty, it will be 'too difficult' to hold a retrospective referendum. So, that's that issue neutralised, in that Cameron will be unable to use it as a campaigning issue in the run-up to the general election. Also he is now under fire from the Europhobes in his party for this latest admission. Marvellous! I love it when a plan falls apart.

Liberal Burblings

How to get women on the ballot

Nan Sloane (Leeds, Centre for Women and Democracy): Does it really matter that only 19.8% of our MPs are women, that women constitute a mere 31% of local councillors, and that BME women are even more poorly represented at these levels? After all, women have the vote, and are free to stand for local councils or parliament if they want to. If they don’t choose to, why should it be a problem? Or, let’s put it another way. Can a representative democracy in which - for whatever reason - 51% of the population is under-represented truly be called either representative or democratic?

Our Kingdom

Who’ll come out of this row best?

Will a U-turn help Gord or not? An issue on which the Lib Dems have been making the running, the plan to take away 5% of school budget surpluses, was used by David Cameron at PMQs yesterday for his first line of attack against Gordon Brown.The Tory leader said that it was “unjust, an ill-conceived idea” which undermines governors’ authority.

Political Betting

Global Population Control

Global over-population is the real issue

It is a tragic measure of how far the world has changed and the infinite capacity of modern man for taking offence that there are no two subjects that can get you more swiftly into political trouble than motherhood and apple pie. The last time I tentatively suggested that there was something to be said in favour of apple pie, I caused a frenzy of hatred in the healthy-eating lobby. It reached such a pitch that journalists were actually pelting me with pies, and demanding a retraction, and an apology, and a formal denunciation of the role of apple pie in causing obesity.

Boris Johnson

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

PMQs 24th October 2007

Brown gets clunked again

More Labour glum faces today, and much for them to be glum about. Cameron opened on a good theme: Brown's plans to confiscate budget surpluses accrued by prudent schools. Cameron used this as an allegory for Brown's statism, versus Tory localism. "Why does he think he knows how to use the money better than the teachers?" Brown replied (rather lamely) that "he's not listening to what I'm saying" and proceeded to say nothing.

Coffee House

Live PMQs blog: Cameron challenges Brown on plan to confiscate the surpluses of well-run schools

Editor's verdict: Another win for David Cameron. Third in a row. Good choice of topics: The attempt to penalise well-run schools and the Scottish elections fiasco. Cameron is also successfully weaving in the same themes into every PMQs: Brown is a centraliser who is less than candid with the British people. Brown is doing a little better, however - often standing at the despatch box without his guidance book. Good question from Graham Brady. If the frontbench won't touch the Barnett formula you can expect bankbenchers to do so - authorised or not."

Conservative Home

Brown: Labour Not to Blame for Scottish Elections Scandal

I don't know how other people saw it, but I thought David Cameron absolutely hammered Gordon Brown in the second half of PMQs today, when he questioned him about the conduct of the Scottish elections and Wee Dougie Alexander's part in it.

Iain Dale

PMQs - The Verdict

With the most memorable exchanges about events north of the border, this week's PMQs sounded more like Scottish questions. It started well enough for Brown, and he managed to sound a bit more like he was playing the experienced statesman above the fray. David Cameron used his opening questions to ask the prime minister about school budget surpluses and why Brown thought he knew better than heads how to spend the cash.


Election fiasco

Was it a guddle* or a fix? That's the question at the heart of the row that flared up at PMQs about the report into the Scottish elections fiasco.

Nick Robinson

The Verdict

After last week I thought we'd returned to dry, sensible stuff - how wrong was I? This was another belter! Brown started off good enough and then let Cameron wind him up and take him to the cleaners. Has Brown got no temperament? When Blair was baited he didn't act like a bear with a sore head he made his opponent look like a idiot. Another point for Cameron.

Brown 0

Cameron 1

The Poliblogs 24th October 2007

Alistair Darling “Usmanovs” the Independent

I have been looking into the methods and techniques in which the Blair and Brown administrations have deceived Parliament and People over the years, ranging from outright lies through delaying the availability of information in order to cause distorted reports in the News Media (as we saw with Gordon Brown’s “tax cut for the poorest” at the last budget), to multiple announcements of false impressions (as we saw with Gordon Brown’s announced plan to withdraw troops from Iraq who had already been withdrawn). Then I spotted an article in the Independent.

The Wardman Wire

Why is it the money that gets the English so cross?

The constitutional settlement created by New Labour is clearly iniquitous. But what is interesting about the current debate is that it is based around the higher public spending per head in Scotland, which existed before devolution, not the West Lothian question.

Coffee House

Brown's squandered billions

Earlier today I posted about George Osborne's unfortunate pledge to match Labour on spending. I think the public mood is changing because of squeezed household budgets and growing awareness of how wasteful Brown and Blair have been with taxpayers' money. If the Conservatives spent the next two years campaigning against waste we could create a climate of opinion that would support slower growth in the size of the state and ensure that voters are better off and the British economy remains competitive.

Conservative Home

The focus shifts?

Although much of the media is focusing on Brown's refusal to offer a referendum on the EU treaty, there are straws in the wind which suggest that the Tories are not going to get an easy ride on the issue – unless they get their act together. One of those "straws" was the leader in The Times today which, under the heading, "Cold Calculations", argued that, "The Tories have a compelling case to make on the EU treaty".

EU Referendum

Cameron's hollow demand for an EU referendum...

David Cameron's hollow demands for a referendum on the EU treaty hit the buffers - at his own press conference. The Tory Leader exposed his own hypocrisy by repeatedly refusing to say whether he would hold a referendum on the amending treaty if he ever became Prime Minister.

Fair Deal Phil

Tories in a muddle on Europe (plus ça change)

Tory leader David Cameron found himself on slippery terrain today when giving his monthly press conference to journalists. The question repeatedly asked was straightforward enough: the Tories have committed to holding a referendum on the EU reform treaty - will that commitment hold true if the treaty is ratified, and they should find themselves in government?

Lib Dem Voice

Hostilities resumed

It was only a matter of time before the Blairites got back to attacking Gordon Brown. But this time Tony Blair himself seems to be joining in.

Francis Beckett

Who's winning? Does Chris need a 12 pt swing?

Is it possible at this early stage in the Leadership contest to make an educated guess as to the final outcome? We don't yet have any serious opinion polls of the membership, and as the 2006 contest proved these can be pretty unreliable bellwethers anyhow, given our small membership. However, given the close proximity of the contest and other indicators we can take a reasonable punt.

Andy Mayer

Are the Tories cr***ing themselves about Clegg?

Well, I have already torn a strip off Team Clegg for their website today, so this will redress the balance. I have a soft-spot for UK Daily Pundit. It's probably because he or she (any ideas anyone?) has the decency to read the occasional post on this blog and make the odd comment. Thank you UKDP. But he/she are also quite freewheeling. Iain Dale has him/her/them down in the Conservative Top 100, but the blog describes itself as a "centre-right blogger with no party affiliation".

Liberal Burblings

We have enough problems raising turnout without 146,000 votes being rejected

It was evident to me very early on the night of the Scottish elections that something very odd was happening with the voting. There were in the first few announced results an astonishingly high number of rejected ballots, and with issues in Ohio and Florida in mind, where counting machines rejected tens of thousands of votes in the US presidential elections, it seemed as if we had another scandal on our hands.

Norfolk Blogger

Fantasists against the state

David Aaronovitch has an excellent column in The Times today about the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker. If you have heard of Baker at all, it will be for his taste in conspiracy theories concerning the death of the weapons expert Dr David Kelly. I recommend you read the whole article, which includes an informative precedent whose denouement I wasn't previously aware of. This was the murder of an elderly lady, Hilda Murrell, in 1984, and the suspicion - much promoted for years afterwards by the eccentric parliamentarian Tam Dalyell - that Mrs Murrell's anti-nuclear activities had drawn her to the malevolent attention of the security services. David writes:

Oliver Kamm