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Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Brown’

My friend Liliane has received today this email from Labour HQ,

Dear Liliane

I’m sure you’ve already seen reports about our employment summit on the news today and I wanted to contact you directly about the unprecedented challenges that this summit is helping to address.

Let’s be clear – we are facing the first crisis of the global age. Countries across the world are taking action to stimulate their economies and provide help to those who need it.

Today’s employment summit gathers employers, trade unions, and the firms and universities who provide the skills that will bring Britain out of the recession quicker and stronger.

Because we are Labour, we will always approach tough economic times not by just monitoring the economic statistics, but by understanding that each statistic represents families, communities and businesses struggling for help.

We can invest millions in people’s future now or pay billions in a future where people are stuck on benefits – real action no w is vital to ensure that those who are out of work now do not become the long term unemployed of the future.

We understand that, by providing real help now, we can emerge from this downturn quicker and stronger. This is why we are: investing £500m to get people back into work; boosting the economy by providing an average of £275 for each family per year through cuts in VAT and £145 in tax cuts for basic rate taxpayers; and helping to create 100,000 additional jobs through our capital investment programme in schools, hospitals, environmental work, infrastructure, and transport.

But while we are rising to challenge of the times, the Conservatives are blinded by the same old ideological blinkers.

We are absolutely determined that we will not repeat the mistakes of previous recessions when, time after time, the Conservatives’ ‘do nothing’ approach allowed rises in unemployment to become permanent and whole generations were written off.

Britain toda y faces a clear choice.

A country in which a Labour government provides real help for families and businesses affected by the downturn – or a ‘do nothing’ Conservative party set on repeating the mistakes of previous recessions by leaving people to fend for themselves.

Best Wishes

Gordon

More and more I think this crisis is helping both Labour and Brown regain its social democratic identity, which can only be a good thing. After the last years of Blair when the ideological anchoring was lost, the party tried to reinvent itself on a permanent basis, losing its raison d’etre, and the ideological battle lines were blurred, Brown is finally being unashamedly Labour and that is getting party activists excited once more about getting the message out to the electorate.

A clear message and strong beliefs on its ideology is what Labour need as the electoral season draws closer

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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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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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In the last few days I feel like reading the papers and watching the news again. Labour is certainly out of the woods again and has got its political edge back, this can only be good for British politics, even if you don’t support Labour.

The key reason for the change on political momentum was Brown’s conference speech last week. He hit home with the ‘no time for a novice’ line and the new narrative on fairness that felt genuine thanks to his apology on the 10p debate.

But there are more reasons for the change in Labour fortunes, it has been a perfect storm this week for Labour. Firstly, the financial crisis has dominated the headlines and disrupted the Tory conference. An example is how Labour conference last week dominated the first ten minutes of BBC news at 10 and most of Newsnight, the Tories have only come after long debates on both programmes on the financial crisis. Secondly, the Tories support for deregulated markets, again coming back to Brown’s speech and his reference to Osborne’s ‘misery of others’ quote, means that Cameron now is on the defensive on why his recipe for growth is the seed of the current financial mess. Because of this defensive line he has to take he cannot get his message out (if he’s got one). Moreover, in the electorate’s mind has sunk the idea that the Tories don’t have a plan for the future (something which is true), and Cameron and Osborne’s ‘wait and see’ line isn’t working anymore. No specifics, the ‘no time for a novice’ argument strengthens itself more and more.

In a recent post I argued that the media needed to take a closer look at the Tories and thankfully they are. They are now asking them the tough questions they should be asked and the Tories are all over the place. Moreover, the Government has kept an institutional and sombre profile, the kind of profile that benefits Brown’s image. Darling yesterday quite skilfully deactivated the Tories’ line on bipartisanship by saying a vote in Parliament won’t be necessary as all changes will be done within existing legislation. Both Brown and Darling are looking much stronger these days. The way they sorted the Bradford & Bingley problem was quick and resolute, and on and on…

It’s not over yet, Labour still got a lot of work to do, they are after all still behind in the polls by about 9 points. Unless Cameron blows the house away today that gap should continue narrowing. Key issues No. 10 needs to focus on now, PMQs and the Glenrothes byelection. Brown needs to find a type of performance that can neutralise Cameron’s Blair-like show, and Labour needs to put solvent people in charge of the byelection, a win is a must to keep the momentum. Labour is back my friends.

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Tighten your belt Her Majesty

According to the Indy the Government has denied the Queen an increase on the amount of public money provided for the financing of both her official duties, the so called Civil List, and the maintenance of the different royal palaces. The Queen’s advisers asked for an increase on the existing £7.9 million Civil List or the settlement of a £32 million bill for palace maintenance.

Good on the Government to do so. The fact that these were secret talks means that the Government stood its ground and kept its promises on public spending discipline behind closed doors, where it matters, not just in front of the cameras.

At a time of financial difficulties the Queen should show some solidarity with her subjects, that money can be put to better use.

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Loved it!

Great, great speech from Gordon Brown today. Certainly the best Brown performance I’ve seen. He was at ease delivering the speech. In the personal touches he was warm but not cheesy (unlike last year), in the big picture/vision section he was firm and inspiring, in the policy sections specific and comprehensive and in the politics of it all he was defiant and delivered some great attack lines on the Tories. But the most important bit is that this speech has drawn the battleline in the right way for Labour: statesmanship versus showmanship and experience and substance versus inexperience and oportunism.

I think if Labour spinners and Ministers can keep the momentum and for once the MSM gives the man a fair treat we could see a substantial change in the opinion polls. The hot potato is now on the Tories hands, let’s see what they can do.

My favourite quotes from the speech were:

‘No time for a novice’

‘If I’m too serious, there is a lot to be serious about’

‘Being on the side of hardworkin families is the only place I’ve ever wanted to be, and from now on it’s the only place I will ever be’

‘Why do we always strike for fairness? Because fairness is in our DNA’

‘The mission of our times- the fair society, the cause that drives us on – and we will win, not for the sake of our party, together we will win for the future of our country’

Top stuff. Brown has risen to the occasion and demonstrated he can deliver under pressure. Congratulations Mr. Brown.

UPDATE: you can read the full transcript of the speech here.

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On Brown’s conference speech

In today’s Guardian Jackie Ashley has written an article in which in one paragraph she summarsies my views on the upcoming Labour conference and the future of Gordon Brown. Ashley says:

‘A fresh, self-critical but confident and rousing performance by Brown at the conference could still regain the initiative. It would have to be accompanied by a stream of vigorous policy speeches from other ministers who managed to sound both energetic and loyal. I can’t quite see this, but you never know’

Spot on Jackie! Let’s remember last year Brown’s speech, at the height of his popularity, was a bit too much. Brown isn’t a natural at public speaking that’s why he should be looking at one recent speech which could help him out there, Sara Palin’s speech to the Republican convention a couple of weeks ago. Let me explain why:

First of all, always always lower expectations. Palin took quite a public beating the first few days after her name was disclosed as McCain’s running mate. Expectations were so low when she delivered her speech the tide changed completely after it. Needless to say expectations are extremely low on Brown, keep them like that and then deliver a good speech, you will have a media tsunami the next morning.

And secondly, prepare a speech based in two parts. In the first one be partisan, talk about Labour values, be populist, broad thinking and a long term plan are essential here. In the second part be specific, after you’ve given the big picture talk specifics, Brown should focus on specific policy proposals that relate to the bigger picture to provide a comprehensive and coherent message, something that has been lacking all over No. 10 in the past year.

If Brown gets this done he will impress everyone, journalists, party activists and the public at large. The waters will calm down, Glenrothes (and everything else) will look much better and party activists will regain their energy to fight back. It’s time to see if Brown is cut to be a political heavy weight, his speech next week will tell us.

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