Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

All to fight for in the General Election

I read this piece on the Tory Radio blog last night : Labour giving up on being able to form a majority , produced in response to what editor Jonathon Sheppard (I’m assuming it’s him) called a “Labour reaction of glee” to the news that the newly published ComRes Poll in the Sunday Mirror : POLL EXCLUSIVE: David Cameron’s down again , was predicted to lead to a hung parliament, with the Conservatives 5 seats shy of a majority, in the next general election (Predictions from polls are hit & miss affairs by the way – but lots of fun – try Electoral Calculus to have a play around with some figures).

Well although I found the tone of the article to be childish and sneering, one does have to ask – why get so excited about the prospect of scraping a near draw ?

I feel that there are two reasons – and I look to the example of Tory ex-Prime Minister John Major for both.

John fought two general elections as Prime Minister. Let’s take the later one – the one where he was defeated – first. Major’s position before and as a result of that election, represents the doomsday scenario for any political party. Unpopular as his government had become, as the election loomed it became more and more difficult to salvage anything for his party. Like an aeroplane in free-fall, there came a point where it was impossible to pull out of the dive, and all that he could do was wait for the crash. When it came it provided Labour with possibly their most staggering victory ever – winning seats in places which had hitherto been considered untouchable.

Back last year at the time of the European elections, that was a scenario being painted by many for Labour – in third place in many areas, losing ground to fringe parties as well as established ones with cabinet ministers bickering in the wings trying to unseat the leader.

There’s another lesson from John Major though – from the 1992 election – which he won.

John Major’s Government was also unpopular then, and he was facing a slick election campaign from Labour’s Prime Minister in waiting Neil Kinnock. Neil Kinnock you may remember even managed to have the celebration before he’d won the election so sure was he of the forthcoming victory

There’s so many things in that short clip that provide echos of today’s situation – the Opposition cheered by the opinion polls, sure that the Government can’t win, but not yet sure that they can – according to the polls – but brimming with confidence, and sure that the Prime Minister is a “Box Office Disaster” to use John Smith’s words.

We know what happened – Kinnock blew the election – or was it the other way round ? I actually felt that John Major won it – he did his homework, he worked hard, and although even most of the Conservative Party didn’t really believe him until the votes were counted, he successfully delivered the goods – much to my own disappointment ( “At least he’s not Margaret Thatcher !” was my dejected thought the morning after ).

So which will it be for Labour ? Major’s 1997 Meltdown, or Major’s 1992 Rope-a-Dope ?

Back last Spring, the harbingers of doom were fairly sure of the Meltdown – but since then things have changed. In council by elections for instance there’s been no big evaporation of the Labour position. Gordon Brown, has become more vociferous and successful in his spoken comments – making Cameron look a charlie in many of the recent PMQ’s for instance.

There’ve also been a few embarrassments for the Tories as well – Cameron’s handling (or lack of handling) of anti-nhs extreme right wingers in his party such as Daniel Hannan has not gone down well publicly.

The traditional Tory press for some reason, also seem to take a delight in having a side-swipe at David Cameron, even whilst trying to rally the troops : see this in the Telegraph earlier this week  David Cameron’s Tories are a one-man band that’s playing out of tune

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that there aren’t still big, big difficiculties for Labour – just that the crash landing is not inevitable – we seem to have pulled out of the dive.

Admittedly Labour could have done without Hoon & Hewitt’s shennanigins regarding leadership challenges – but the episode does seem to have galvanised unity within the party  – for the time being at any rate.

So this opinion poll shows that yes there could be a hung parliament. Margins of error taken into account it probably also shows that the Tories could have a very small majority, or that their simple majority might be even smaller. When all’s said and done it’s just another poll – and they can be misleading as we know.

It does though, suggest that the total meltdown isn’t happening. Which suggests to me that Gordon Brown’s election may well be more similar to John Major’s more successful campaign in 1992 than to his disaster in 1997.

I think it’s this that the Labour faithful are taking heart with – because the poll hints at lessons from history which show that there is all to fight for in this election and that a Labour majority is by no means out of the question.

When you look at those airbrushed posters of David Cameron smugly looking out at you – who does it remind you of ? Tony Blair ? Margaret Thatcher ? No – for me it’s Neil Kinnock – having his party early – just as Cameron is.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over , and I’m Voting Labour !

January 24, 2010 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Who loves the NHS ? Is it true ?

[ UPDATE : This article now re-posted at House of Twits : Front Bench Blogs Many thanks ! ]

Sorry but I just can not resist posting this about David Cameron’s reported meeting with the radical nursing group Nurses for Reform

It is reported in the Telegraph : David Cameron meets NHS privatisation campaigners , with the by line :  “ David Cameron has met a health care pressure group that advocates full privatisation of the National Health Service – a meeting that could infuriate doctors and nurses.” ; that he met with the group two weeks ago.

Certainly the group themselves are full of this – the article  David Cameron seeks policy ideas from NFR appears on their website, and neither do they make any bones about their support for dismantling the National Health Service, in this article on the Adam Smith Institute website The micro-politics of hospital privatisation .

It’s on their own site though that I spot the most flabbergasting statements About Nurses for Reform

“NFR rejects bland egalitarianism in favour of competition. And it believes in people – not politics.”

All of which leads me to believe that Mr Cameron has once again been upstaged by the right wing of his party – and this time it’s not recognised fringe mavericks like Daniel Hannan doing the NHS down – no this time it’s cuddly Dave himself, in what I would guess will prove to be a huge embarrassment to the Conservative party.

Of course I’m not alone in thinking that, the Telegraph article itself does point out similar concerns :

“His decision to meet the radical group, which calls the NHS a “dystopian, Soviet-style calamity”, will be seen as foolhardy after the painstaking efforts he has made to reassure voters that the NHS is safe in Tory hands. The meeting risks reigniting the row which exploded four months ago when Mr Cameron was forced to distance himself from a leading Tory MEP who suggested that the NHS was a “mistake”. “

The Telegraph remember, is rather more well disposed towards the Conservative party than I am. The article also says …

“the meeting is bound to be exploited by Labour ministers in the run-up to the election. Nurses For Reform, by its own admission, is the most extreme pressure group calling for NHS privatisation in Britain. On its website it denounces the NHS as a “Soviet” organisation which must be dismantled.”

Is it just me or does David Cameron look exceptionally embarassed ?

(This image is contained on the Nurses for Reform website – it may not embed correctly – please visit the site at×225.jpg  to see the original in context )

December 30, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I tell them “I’m voting Labour”

I tell them “I’m voting Labour”

There was some celebration amongst the Labour Twitterati last Saturday evening / Sunday morning after the latest poll showed a narrowing of the Conservative lead.

Whilst Tories and the more sensible Labour people will point out that sometimes you get a rogue poll, and that one poll certainly is certainly no reliable indicator of election outcomes, it was at least encouraging to have even a rogue poll going more in Labour’s direction – and I’d have to say that this one felt more in tune with what I’ve encountered talking to non-political friends and colleagues at home and at work.

Some time ago I blogged about the way that the polls didn’t seem to be reflecting the mood which I was encountering (The bitterest Poll ?) – and I’m prompted once again to comment on opinions encountered in day to day life – but perhaps a bit more positively this time :

I’ve noticed in many conversations over the past months people throwing into conversations things like “Well when the Conservatives get in this will all change” or “Of course there’s no telling what a Tory government will do” – this from people who aren’t especially politically minded – but lead you to believe that much as they don’t particularly want it – the Consevative victory at the General Election is inevitable.  My response, sadly was to shrug and sigh.

But since that last blog I’ve noticed a subtle difference. People haven’t been saying  “When the Conservatives get in” they’re now saying “Of course we’ll probably have a Conservative government by then” – Probably – not definitely.

Which has prompted me to make a different response. Now if I hear something like that I challenge it – I say “Not if I have anything to do with it !” or “They’ll only be elected if we vote for them” and most of all I say “I’m voting Labour !”

The effect of this is quite dramatic. I find it gives the outsiders in the conversation the courage to speak up. Instead of just nodding and accepting the received wisdom, instead they express how they’re not sure about the conservatives, they discuss their worries about the election, and quite a lot of them – certainly more than you’d imagine from looking at opinion polls or reading the Sun –  say “I’m voting Labour too !”.

So my thought for the day. If you get caught in a conversation with friends, or work colleagues, or even total strangers about politics and people make comments that suggests that the election is a foregone conclusion, – don’t accept it !

Challenge it – tell them it’s not a foregone conclusion. Tell them anyone can win the election.

Tell them that the election will only be a foregone conclusion if people don’t think about who they’re voting for.

Tell them every vote counts.

And tell them “I’m voting  Labour  !”

Because if you don’t tell them, who will ?

November 28, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , | 8 Comments

Just who would benefit from Cameron’s Tax cuts ?

The tragedy of a a person being hit by a train in the Harrow & Wealdstone area, thus suspending all trains in and out of Euston Station gives the unexpected silver lining of me being able to resurrect my much neglected blog.

I’m interested today by the Cameron Gift Calculator on the front page of the Labour Party website (the content will doubtless change in coming days). The little gadget there allows you to type in the value of your estate and find out how much you will benefit from the cuts in inheritance tax that David Cameron’s Conservative party are proposing.

Well my house, in South Bedfordshire is worth around £225,000 – I have a mortgage of around £100,000 but this would be more or less paid off with life insurance should I or my wife die.

So how much would – benefit ?  – Well I wouldn’t – nothing, zero – I’m not wealthy enough to get a present from Dave.

No surprise perhaps. After all according to the same Labour website neither would 96% of the population. It’s what I should expect no doubt.

But here’s the rub – I’m a Headteacher – a London Headteacher and I earn well above median earnings. In fact my salary of around £78,000 is (according to this July 2009 BBC article : Just what is a big salary? ) not just above average, but puts me in the top 5% of earners – comfortably in fact, with the cut off figure for the 95th centile being £58,917. Yet despite probably being in the top 4% of earners, I’m no where near the 4% of people who’d benefit from these Tory tax proposals.

So in case there’s anyone out there thinking the Tories’ tax cuts would benefit the high earners out there – forget it. It’s old money we’re talking out – people who had the money from the day they were born – or at least the promise of it when Mummy or Daddy popped their clogs.

Lest anyone’s in any doubt – the inheritance tax cuts would not affect anyone with estates of less than £700,000 – and then not massively. But if for example you had an estate worth £5, 000, 000 then you’d stand to benefit by £520,000  (or your heirs would). As if you’d need it !

As Gordon Brown observed in Parliament today, Cameron and Osborne “will know by name” almost all of the people who will benefit from these measures – and adding  “Is this what the Conservatives mean when they say ‘we’re all in this together?’

So before you go off and vote Conservative in the general election – ‘just for a change’ – remember what kind of people they are : They are really greedy people who just look out for themselves and their own kind !


November 18, 2009 Posted by | blogs, news, politics | , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Primaries – After Bracknell what now ?

I was interested to see the latest Tory experiment with ‘open’ primary selection for candidates resulted in a less than predictable result for some of us in the world of Tweets and Blogs, but perhaps a slightly more traditionally anticipated outcome for the Conservatives who frequent the Blue Mountain Golf Centre. ( Iain Dale fails to win selection in Bracknell ) Resulting in the selection as candidate of local GP Philip Lee.

I’m not sure I can answer the questions this throws up – so I’ll restrict my self to musing over what the questions are.

First of all this wasn’t really a primary, and wasn’t all that ‘open’. It required pre-registration. and attendance at the Blue Mountain Golf Centre whose website alone would dissuade a good few from rolling up (Wonder if they have a no hoodies rule ?). More of a caucus really. However the principles are similar.

Iain Dale’s a big name in on-line politics. His blog is very widely read, and his connection with the notorious, and even more widely read Guido Fawkes blog has placed him centre stage in the blogosphere (if that’s not a few mixed metaphors and acronyms too far).

I’d imagine many people assumed that he was already an MP – and will be surprised by his non-selection. Iain puts this down (in the article linked to earlier) partly to negative spin on his homosexuality – I hope that”s not true, but fear that it is to some extent. I do suspect though that what is more likely is that there is an emerging tendency to favour local candidates – which I think would be mirrored in the Labour Party, and to favour individuals with “respectable” backgrounds – which I think will be more likely for the Conservatives, but may well affect Labour too.

That in itself is an issue. OK – I accept that people have a right to want a local candidate – but how will that sit with people who have ambitions to sit for parliament yet live in a safe sit for a party they do not belong to ?  I mean if you’re a budding Tory candidate you’re not going to get very far in a safe Labour seat – or vice versa. Even in major swings of voting intentions – such as in Tony Blair’s 1997 victory, 300 or so seats never change their party ( source Electoral Calculus) – so I’m not sure how that opens things up very much. It brings the “Ryan Giggs” effect into politics – Ryan being surely likely to have been one of the worlds greatest international football players – were it not for the fact that he’s from Wales, who haven’t qualified for a major tournament in his lifetime.

It also seems to favour the local “great and good” – which might be good for me – who knows, if we can have GP’s I’m sure we could have headteachers, especially if I’m from a special school, and I’ve been a foster carer. Only trouble is I don’t know jack about politics – not really, just my own opinions, and I’ve never been a councillor or anything. But hey I’ve been a school governor so I’d get a few votes so it would be OK. OK until I got into parliament that is – then I’m not sure I’d have much idea of how to go on.

No – I’d rather vote for someone who had a little political experience under their belt – not just ‘world experience’ – but I’m not sure the ‘selectorate’ would agree.

I’m not really disagreeing with the idea of primaries, I’m just wondering about the practicalities – the niggles that would crop up and make them hard to work.

This latest Bracknell Primary for instance occurred because an MP stood down. So what would you do then if we had a mutual primary arrangement ? Have primaries for all the parties ?  Or just the one ? And if you register to vote in an interim Tory primary (as Labour MP Tom Harris urged Labour voters to do Why you should vote for a Tory ) would that mean that you could still register to vote in the Labour one next time it came up ?

And I really don’t know what you’d do about safe seats. Get rid of them is the obvious answer – and I can see that that approach would have some popularity with local punters. Far better many would say, to have a well known local candidate, then a professional politician foisted on the consituency to make sure the chosen few are in the cabinet. I’m not sure though – I’d like to think that the party voted into Government won’t have half the cabinet deselected half way through the term of office, by disgruntled opposition voters registering for the primary (which they would if they wanted a say in a safe seat) – I’d also like to think that frontbenchers wouldn’t have to neglect their duties to spend time pressing the flesh in their constituencies too much just to secure re-selection.

These are all problems. Problems I’d like to think can be solved – they haven’t been solved yet though – and I think that the Bracknell Tory primary result indicates that very well.

I can’t really answer the questions – so I’ll just reiterate my opinion – Primaries are a possible way of re-democratising and re-energising politics – but I feel they can only do this if they are part of a calory controlled diet. (Sorry – I made the last bit up – I meant  – Only if they are part of a wider range of electoral and constitutional reforms)

What I’d like to see as a starting point is all of the major parties putting Primaries and Electoral Reform in prime position in their manifestos for the forthcoming General Election, to let the public know exactly what kind of a will for change each party really has.

October 18, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cut public spending, say voters – or do they ?


How do people think of what to blog about ? Sometimes I can’t think of a thing, and even if I try to write something, nothing comes out. Other times something just gets my goat – and off I go.

Tonight it was a series of tweets from @theredbox which generally is Times OnLine’s political link service, which riled me into action.

One of the things they like to do is wind Labour supporters up on a Saturday night, with early releases of tomorrows Sunday sensations. This Saturday was no different.

I could pick any from about half dozen articles to get irate over – however I’ll stick to this one : Cut public spending, say voters

According to a times/yougov poll published “today” ( the date of the article is the 13th of September, but it’s quite clearly still only the 12th )  “Voters are overwhelmingly in favour of cutting public spending rather than tax rises to close the budget black hole”

“The survey finds that just 21% would prefer the government to raise taxes to close the growing gap between what the Treasury spends and what it receives in revenue. Sixty per cent want to shrink the size of the state to curb the £175 billion deficit amid mounting government disarray over the public finances.

Of course they don’t actually show you the full survey results or what questions were asked so it’s impossible to evaluate  the findings critically – doubtless they’ll be drip fed to us in the morning.

I just wonder what the questions were though – because in all honesty I’m not sure that 62% of the electorate actually understand what “shrinking the state” means (I’m not really sure that I do). So let’s just examine this for a few moments :

“Overhwelmingly in favour of cutting spending rather than tax rises” – hmm, so not necessarily in favour per se – just preferring it to tax rises.

“62% want to shrink the size of the state” – right, so how many % was it in favour of spending cuts ? Oh, actually they don’t say. Maybe shrinking the size of the state is the same thing – who knows ?

“mounting government disarray over public finances” – and there’s me thinking that there’d been quite a rash of news articles this week saying that the recession was on its way out ( this one for example Recession is officially over, according to leading thinktank )

“Just 21% would prefer to raise taxes” – just 21% – a bit more than 1 in 5. That’s compared to the approximately 3 in 5 they say support cutting spending. So there are presumably another 1 in 5 who are undecided. So around 3 to 2 overall in favour of . That’s a clear majority. Clear. Not overwhelming.

So all this is a becoming  a bit less convincing. Let’s not forget though that this isn’t just The Times doing an unscientific survey – no they’re using YouGov to do this, which according to its website, is the “authoritative measure of public opinon and consumer behaviour” who’ve got lots of experience in mounting objective survey’s of public opinion.

Which makes the Times’ poll even more astonishing, because there’s clearly been a seismic shift in opinion in just a few short days.

According to YouGov’s Peter Kellner’s blog Cameron ditches the negatives, but has not yet nailed the positives a poll published last Monday, not for the Times, but for the Telegraph, shows some radically different results :

7% think that taxes paid as a share of   income would be lower under the Conservatives.  Or should that be “Just 7%”

more people think David Cameron would govern in the interests of better-off people (45%) than think he would govern in the interests of the country as a whole (38%)

And here’s the beauty – 69% of the general public, and 63% of Tories, think one of the top priorities for the Government should be to raise the taxes of those earning more than £150,000 a year.

It doesn’t actually say how many want to “shrink the size of the state”

It does conclude though : “the Conservatives appear to be on course for a modest overall majority. If they can enhance the positives, they could win big. But there remain enough weaknesses in their image for the party to be vulnerable to an effective fightback by Labour”.

I think I can believe that. So don’t forget – sometime in the next year you’ll have a chance to vote in a real poll. Don’t miss the chance – vote Labour !

September 12, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel Hannan’s outpourings on the NHS – Will Cameron slap him down ?

Anyone in the UK political Twitter’n’blogland can hardly have missed today’s #WeLoveTheNhs trend – prompted by Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan’s latest broadcasts on US Television pouring scorn again on the “60 year mistake” which he believes the NHS to be.

Lots of people will be dissecting this on their own blogs – one of the best and quickest off the mark was Grace Fletcher-Hackwood Our doctors and nurses: an electoral bloc, says Hannan , and possibly the best known is John Prescott on his GoFourth site “Progressive, Don’t make me laugh !”

So I won’t go over that ground again – save to say that #ILoveTheNHS !

What will be the longer term political implications of this episode though ?

Today clearly it demonstrates the very different & extreme agenda that right wing Conservatives can adopt. I think the less politically attuned may well be shocked. They may well also miss it though, and by the time they pick up tomorrow’s Mails and Expresses it will all have spun in a slightly different direction.

We’ll inevitably be treated tomorrow to the woes of people with horrendous stories about their experiences with the NHS – then we’ll get a few days of the traditional Labour/Tory exchanges on health. This is just midfield tussle though – no knockout blows (if I’m not mixing my sporting metaphors too much). This is just going over old ground.

That would change though if Daniel Hannan decided to weigh in again – because he clearly believes what he says. He wants to get rid of the NHS.

The British public though – and I think I can confidently say this – do not. They may moan about it, complain about it, wish it were better – but do they want to get rid of our National Health Service ? Absolutely not !

David Cameron knows that. The core of the Conservative leadership know that. So sometime over the next few days we may well get a feel for what kind of leader David Cameron really is.

In the run up to an election he won’t want particularly to go round “disciplining” dissident voices, and risking division in the party. On the other hand unless he slaps down the likes of Hannan, he’ll be increasingly vulnerable to accusations that the Conservatives are a bunch of right wing extremists – a view that he’s trying hard to dispel.

Daniel Hannan has his supporters amongst the Tories – but it’s by no means universal. I would say that he and his “Plan” tendency are as dangerous to the Conservatives as Derek Hatton and Militant were to Labour.

In some ways I hope that David Cameron bottles this one – because Hannan won’t, he’ll come back again and again. I don’t want the Tories elected and I don’t believe the British public would elect a party that promises to dismantle the National Health Service – but I do think they’d vote for a party led by a man who did what he should do and withdrew the whip from Daniel Hannan.

Which is better for  Labour ? Which is better for the country ? I’m still not sure !

Update : I’m sort of grateful to the author of this blog who has placed this entire article on his/her own blog.   It would have been nice to mention it to me – I’d have had no objections. Still at least he placed a link back

Latest Update (9:30 Thursday 13th August)

It would appear that David Cameron has responded to this little episode with a blog of his own We are proud of the NHS saying how proud he is of the NHS – he makes no mention of Hannan however, nor does he discuss any irony in linking directly to Twitter and sayinglook at all the support “, and how wonderful it is that there are so many supporting messages – So perhaps too many twits don’t make a twat eh  Mr Cameron ? He did however refrain from abusive language this time so he is obviously taking heed of my blog ! I think it’s clever to swear ! (well David Cameron does anyway) (July 31st 2009)

Doesn’t appear to be publishing my comments on his blog though last time I looked. UPDATE !! : 23:55 Yes he is – and lots of others – blimey he’s got a can of worms to deal with there !

August 12, 2009 Posted by | blogs, politics, twitter | , , , , | 2 Comments

I think it’s clever to swear ! (well David Cameron does anyway)

I don't want to be nice - I think it's clever to swear !

I don't want to be nice - I think it's clever to swear !

Yesterday’s shenanigans over David Cameron using the word “twat” on radio  (See Is the T-word offensive? on the BBC Magazine site) will not do great or lasting harm to him or the Conservatives, nor will many people have been truly offended by his words (although trying to pretend he didn’t know what it meant is lame in the extreme).

The event though does illustrate 3 things :

1. David Cameron is vulnerable to silly gaffes, and the press are just as happy to pounce on them as they are on silly gaffes by Labour. We could have a whole dissection of the rights and wrongs of the press doing that – but at the moment I’m quite happy to see DC having a bad day for a change.

2. When my 14 year old son got wind of this story his instant comment was “He just doesn’t get it does he ?” – Get what ? you may ask – Twitter is the answer.  He really doesn’t understand what it’s about and why it’s important, and it really is !

May be not Twitter per se – but the whole interactive nature of new technologies, and the way that young people, old people and, well – just people – communicate with each other, and in a whole range of ways that they never did before.

This is something that political parties can not afford to miss out on. There are people in his party that know this. It surprises me that he was so dismissive of it.

3. David Cameron doesn’t understand that trying to look cool, can sometimes look the exact opposite. What on earth was he thinking of – “Getting down wit da Yoof ” ?

He had all the uber-cool of William “Billy the Pop” Hague in his baseball cap trying to convince people that he used to drink 10 pints a day when he worked on the brewery lorry.

Which I find refreshing !

I wouldn’t normally stoop to such low tactics as putting silly captions on photos – but hey we’ve got to have some fun sometimes.

My title by the way is an extract from John Cooper Clarke’s poem I don’t want to be nice :

I don’t want to be nice
I think it’s clever to swear
Better seek some sound advice
Better look elsewhere”

John Cooper Clarke of course is also the author of another poem : “Twat”

July 31, 2009 Posted by | idle banter, politics | , , , | Leave a comment

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