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Posts Tagged ‘Cameron’

Not did they just run against each other for the Tory leadership in 2005 and disagree on Europe, VAT cuts and their approach to the economic crisis, Cameron’s new found pal, Kenneth ‘big beast’ Clarke, was also responsible for the firing of the current Tory leader in 1993 from his post as special advisor to the Chancellor.

Oh well, desperate times call for desperate measures I guess…

If your own shadow Chancellor cannot take on the government in the middle of a daunting economic crisis I guess bringing into your team the leading critic of your economic policy strategy who fifteen years ago thought you weren’t up to the job just so your party can get a sit on the grown-ups table is sensible enough.

Did anyone really think that Osborne could ever survive a direct confrontation with Brown and Mandelson or even Vince Cable? Afraid not, that’s what Clarke is there for, even if he disagrees with most of what his leader’s actually saying. Such is life…

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I just watched Paxman interviewing Tony McNulty and Alan Duncan on the economic crisis and it’s curious how the tables have turned in British politics since 1997. In 1987 and 1992 Labour lost two general election mainly on the electorate not trusting them with the economy. Tax and spending was the Tories’ electoral forte for years while Labour struck the right note on social issues…depending on what issue the electorate care most about one or the other would shore up in the polls…not anymore. Listening to McNulty and Duncan one could see the Tories complaining about the economy without providing any soutions, very a la old Labour, while McNulty playing the safe pair of hands Minister. On social issues the Tories are now almost the perceived ‘caring party’, when social issues like crime or 42 days detention were the centre of media attention Cameron shore up in the polls, once the economy went down he started sounding too naïve to handle the storm while Brown look decisive with a very Thatcherite ‘take no prisoners’ attitude.

The Tories can certainly lose the next election if they keep looking so weak on the economy. I have a feeling Osborne is under serious threat now if the Tories don’t find a narrative on the economy soon and the PBR goes down well in the polls for Labour a new year reshuffle could see him off and Ken Clarke in.

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Osborne is feeling the heat

George Osborne must be cursing the day he chose Corfu as his holiday destination last summer. Everything was great for the shadow chancellor before that, but then he got himself entangled in a very silly but also very damaging political situation.

The Osborne-Deripaska affair became the first nail in the coffin. Boy George thought he could play hardball with heavyweight Peter Mandelson and came off hurting the new Tory brand. I wrote about this a month or so ago here.

That amateurish mistake is now spreading to his actual shadow cabinet portfolio, the economy. Firstly, his idea of tax credits to employers, announced by Cameron this week, has proven a total failure, both in terms of its economic rationale- it doesn’t achieve its aim and costs a lot more than the Tories say it does, read about it here– and the little impact it has had on back-footing Brown on the economy.

A Tory peer, Lord Kams, and an unnamed Tory MP have already called for Osborne’s replacement. The tax-cutting wing of the party is already uneasy about his lack of vision and pundits are starting to read the runes about possible hints in Cameron’s behaviour that might signal an early exit for his economic wonderboy. In the meantime Osborne is doing no good to the UK economy with his alarmism while Brown and Darling are meeting world leaders in Washington trying to sort out the world economy.

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With ideas like this one understands why they are reluctant to put more policy substance out there…it would just be embarrassing.

The argument against brilliantly put by Hopi and Chris here and here.

Enjoy!

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Osborne’s big big mistake

For many inside the Westminster bubble the fact that there has been no resignation or institutional investigation in the Osborne/Deripaska affair meant the end of the story. Many think Osborne has been shaken and the Tories will actually be better off now that he has learnt a valuable lesson, never to get too cocky.

But those same people are very wrong indeed, Osborne is responsible for damaging the most valuable asset of Cameron’s Tory party, its branding. Actually it wasn’t Osborne who has done it, it’s Peter Mandelson, but Osborne brought it upon himself anyways. As John Hoynes tell Josh Lyman in the first season of the West Wing: ‘welcome to the NFL kid’. Osborne thought he could play dirty politics with probably one of the most skilled politicians in that field seen in the UK in a long time and he’s shot himself on the foot instead. But back to our main story…

The Tories have had a number of negative stories on dodgy financial dealings since David Cameron became party leader, MEPs’ expenses, the Conway and Spellman affairs… the problem was that none of them stuck at the time because they were dealt by Cameron as bad habits from the past that his new team was committed to eradicate. But then the Osborne story came up.

Cameron’s most trusted advisor, his Shadow Chancellor, the man who would run the British economy if the Tories were to win the next election has gone dirty as well. It is not anymore an old habit, it’s the very core of the new Cameron leadership who’s in trouble. Many will say he hasn’t done anything wrong, but that doesn’t matter in politics, because Osborne is now responsible for allowing future attacks on the Tories financial dealings to stick. There are new stories coming out in the Guardian and the Mail on the Tories and dodgy donations, are they true? doesn’t matter, everyone is at it now and it’s going to hurt Cameron badly because financial honesty and transparency is key right now to win the trust of voters at a time of an economic recession.

Osborne has contaminated the Tory brand badly. You can see the Tories running around trying to switch the blame over to Mandelson (here and here), but it’s too late, the damage to the “whiter than white” Cameronites is done. And the funny thing about this is that Osborne brought it upon himself by disclosing a private conversation between him and Mandelson, which is not just bad social manners but very very amateurish politically speaking.

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Gordon Brown has certainly regained the political initiative with today’s announcement of the return of Peter Mandelson to British politics. Wait for this weekend’s papers, one is going to feel like is back to 1998. So far surprise is the only feeling everyone can agree on the return of our very own ‘comeback kid’.

But moving on to the bigger picture. A Guardian/ICM poll today shows a bump in the polls for the Tories of just 1% after their conference. It should be a warning shot for Cameron that his strategy is starting to show signs of exhaustion. It is true that they are comfortable in the lead and that a return to parliamentary politics benefits him against Brown, specially the diversification of daily topics (not just the crisis which benefits Brown) and the weekly showdown of PMQs.

And here is where Brown’s reshuffle comes into play. Three very important priorities are being covered by the PM in what I believe to be a great strategic move on his part:

Firstly, Brown has neutralised any potential Blairite plotting or undermining of his authority with the return of the ultra-blairite, and not Brown’s best friend, Mandelson. Miliband should now keep quite and work hard for his resurging PM. Plus Mandelson’s return should be a nice bone for Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn to chew on and keep quite, at least for a while.

Secondly, the PM should find in Beckett and Mandelson the solutions to his government’s presentational problems. Mandelson’s presentational skills together with Alistair Campbell, who’s returned as an external advisor, and  Damian McBride’s everyday media relations experience should bring back some efficiency to No. 10’s media operation. On the other hand, the return of Margaret Beckett, a seasoned party and cabinet operative, should help improve coordination and discipline within the cabinet, something that has been lacking in past Brown cabinets.

And my third and final point is the changes in policy areas. With the creation of a specific post on climate change and energy, led by Ed Miliband, Brown is signalling the importance energy prices have in household economies as well as not forgetting the crucial fight against climate change. This combined with the creation of a National Economic Council and, again, the return of Mandelson,  who has gained invaluable experienced as Trade Commissioner in Brussels, should strengthen the government’s ability to fight the current financial crisis to get the economy train rolling again. A final point to be made is the appointment of Geoff Hoon as Transport Secretary. As a bit of a transport policy geek myself I am very happy with this appointment. Hoon is a pragmatic and able politician that should make of the DfT a crucial department within government after the year of inaction under Ruth Kelly.

Brown is impressing me lately. He’s recovered and is starting to look again like the strategic mind he is at his best. The Tories should be worried, maybe it’s time to fly Steve Hilton back from the sunshine state.

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Well, conference season is over and it seems everyone is happy but the LibDems, which seems to be the norm since Charles Kennedy left the party’s leadership anyways.

Cameron’s speech today was awaited with certain degree of nervousness in Tory ranks due to the sudden resurgence of that political corpse that was Gordon Brown a few weeks ago. Cameron needed to stop the bleeding and regain his mojo before the ever changing political mood in the country swallowed his lead in the polls. Did he do it? Let’s just say he managed to stop the bleeding, not sure though about the mojo. Right now there is a tense calm, both parties are ready for battle once Parliament opens its doors again. Cameron couldn’t close the deal today, his speech was extremely partisan drenched in Toryspeak (so much for bipartisan consensus), he certainly cheered his troops, but how did he do with the general public? I’m not sure yet, we’ll have to wait and see in the next few weeks after all the excitement is gone what is left in the back of people’s minds, meaning polls. It is time for Labour to keep going, staying on message and more importantly pushing the ‘novice’ line out there to keep the Tories on the defensive.

Tories will tell you they are very happy after the speech, but I’ll tell you what, they ain’t. They prepared for Birmingham to finish off Brown, instead Cameron’s speech has had to be used for some damage control. Brown has not only survived conference but has come out fighting and caught the Tories by surprise. Let’s wait and see the next few weeks will tell us more after the air clears.

UPDATE: For the first time since 1992 The Sun is backing a Tory candidate for PM. Read the leader here. Now, time to prove to Rupert that he’s no kingmaker in Britain, just the guy who shows good football on telly.

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