Are we ready?

Tories are very quiet this morning, and with good reason. As the gyroscopic spinning subsides, it becomes apparent that they are in trouble.

Labour will rightly crow about how they hung on to their safe seats with respectable majorities. For anyone to overhaul either of these seats would have taken a massive swing – and we all knew that from the outset. But no seat is completely safe in a by election – as the Tories almost found out in Bromley. The fact that Labour maintained these two seats comfortably is evidence of the ‘new leader bounce’ that Gordon is currently enjoying. It is proof, if proof were needed, that Mr and Mrs Average have not yet transferred all of their antipathy to Blair to his successor.

For ourselves, we can look at these results and take comfort from the fact that our hard work produced two solid second places in seats that were unlikely to fall anyway. Hopefully, the whispering campaign can subside now, for it deflects our focus from the hard work we need to do.

The Tories at Ealing Southall looked gutted – and well they might, for all their efforts have been rewarded with sweet nothing. Even Iain Dale has been honest enough to admit as much:

…let’s not pretend this was a satisfactory result. It patently was not…

The fact that David Cameron nailed his colours so firmly to Tony Lit’s mast (oo er) turns out to be a clanger. Tony Lit was a risk – and it has backfired. Imposing a candidate is also a slap in the face to hard working local activists and budding politicians – some of whom will have worked hard for the party for years. The local party morale has been sacrificed on the alter of a gamble, and a gamble which failed spectacularly.  In fact, Tony Lit could almost be a local metaphor for Cameron: photogenic, glossy presentation – but scrape away the veneer, and there is little of political substance behind it. When will they ever learn?

All this must be manna from heaven for Gordon Brown. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to calculate that a snap general election would almost certainly result in a increased Labour majority. Cameron’s Conservatives are clearly a million miles away from looking electable or having a programme for government. They are still warring with themselves just as Labour were in the eighties. They are riven between the choices of modernise or die. Too many would still prefer to die. But modernise means more than just having a pretty, witty leader. There has to be a vision to communicate to the electorate – and they are nowhere near to having one that they can all agree on, let alone sell to the public.

Gordon Brown likes to spring the odd surprise – and bucking the trend of hanging on for as long as possible would become one of his most famous. The only question Gordon has to ask is ‘can the Labour Party afford the campaign?’ Election campaigns are costly, and the ‘dodgy loan’ route has now been effectively closed. That is, of course, for him to calculate and for us to guess.

So are we ready? Can we, as a party, hold our own in a snap general election in the face of the New Labour election machine promoting ‘New Gordon’? We can and we must. We have some clear, distinctive policies. We have a clear agenda for radical tax redistribution that would begin to address how unfair this country still is. We have a clear vision on the environment, civil liberties and respect for international law. And we have some of the best local activists ready to give everything for the cause. We must stop doubting ourselves – in particular, our choice of leader, and we must keep pushing our selection programme so that every seat has a locally chosen candidate in place.

Go back to your constituencies – and prepare for a fight!

General Election, anyone?

I belatedly came across this interesting piece on UK Polling Report, which analyses the ‘boost’ that a party gets when a new leader takes over mid-term. I won’t repeat it all here, but it looks at past examples – such as Callaghan succeeding Wilson or Major succeeding Thatcher. In those, and other cases, the incumbent enjoyed a poll boost which led to their parties’ languishing fortunes being reversed. Recent polls suggest that Labour have received a healthy boost from the long-overdue departure of Tony Blair.

If Gordon Brown is smart, he will have not failed to notice the ‘but’ here. The ‘new leader bounce’ is a time-limited phenomena. The graphics seem to suggest, for example, that if Jim Callaghan had gone to the country shortly after taking over he might have won his own five year mandate. The whole course of history might have been different! But Callaghan dithered for too long, and his bounce ebbed away.

So if I were Gordon Brown, and I were smart (and I think parts of Gordon’s make-up are quite smart), I might be circling dates in the autumn. Of course, the by election performances might encourage me to jump or dither!

The slow, strange death of Iain Dale’s credibility

Iain Dale likes to portray himself as something a little bit different. He describes himself as a ‘right of centre political commentator’ and admits to being a former Tory candidate. But he’d love to be Nick Robinson or Andrew Marr – a respected pundit capable of teasing out the background to political arguments in an informed and informative way. As a result, he’s been on the bookmark list of many readers of all political persuasions, myself included. In the past, he hasn’t always towed the party line. His critiques of the Tory party’s struggle with it’s identity have been illuminating, and often a jolly good read to boot. I don’t often agree with him – but that’s not the point. I can respect the opinions of someone I disagree with, if they are argued cogently and coherently.

But something has happened to Mr Dale. He appears to have been ‘got at’ by CCHQ. His coverage of Ealing Southall has become slavish. He has defended the indefensible. He has published Shappisms without bothering to check out the facts or the background. He has proved that during a campaign, the first casualty is his credibility.

Here’s a brief recap:

1. As previously blogged about here and just about everywhere else, Grant Shapps gives his explanation of ‘sock puppeting’ as a Lib Dem on You Tube: ‘a nasty Lib Dem guessed that my password was 1234’. The entire online community rolls about on the floor laughing. When we have sufficiently recovered, we find that Iain has swallowed it hook line and sinker:

I can totally see why Mark Pack and others might have thought the worst and can’t blame them for highlighting it. Sometimes the story is not quite as good as one first thinks.

Err, if you says so Iain.

2. Shock horror – Lib Dems publish photo of rival candidate in leaflet. Iain says:

I have to say it’s a bit odd for them to be using a picture of him

Something the Iain and the Tories would never do eh? Then I have to say I find this Iain Dale posting using a Lib Dem image a bit odd to! And really, before you criticise, wouldn’t it be wise to make sure your party hasn’t been doing exactly the same thing?

3. Tory candidate in Ealing Southall, Tony ‘Parachute’ Lit is exposed as having been at Labour Party fundraiser, just days before being selected by the Tories. The table cost £4,800, and he spent another £4,000 in the auction. Do you think now that the pundit in Iain would have to break ranks and make some sort of criticism? No chance, Iain says:

Personally, I cannot imagine why any Conservative would want to attend a Labour Party event, but we should remember it was an Asian business ‘do’, and a media organisation like Sunrise presumably has good reason to be impartial in its political relations.

Impartial? What the hell is impartial about Sunrise coughing up that kind of cash to the Labour Party? And the photo of the beaming Lit with Tony Blair doesn’t look too impartial either!

Iain, I think that it’s high time you were honoured with a Lib Dem bar chart:


Grant Shapps – Campaigning Expert

It is amazing, but to read blogs in Toryland or New Labour Land you would certainly gain the impression that Lib Dems were somehow behind all the dirty tricks that go on in by elections. Meanwhile Tories and NuLabbers are paragons of virtue. Well, there’s a new sheriff in town and he goes by the name of Shapps – Grant Shapps.

Earlier in the campaign, he demanded to know if it was true that Lib Dems were offering cash incentives to people to display Lib Dem posters. Now anyone who has campaigned with the Lib Dems for more than an hour will know that we just wouldn’t have the money to do something like that! Every penny in Ealing Southall goes on printed material and there are plenty of volunteers to deliver it. Even target letters are delivered by hand. £50 for a poster or £250 for a stakeboard pays for an awful lot of newspaper, leaflets or target letters. Grant Shapps clearly thought that making the accusation would cause enough mud to stick that some would believe it – after all, no evidence was ever produced.

Now, it appears Mr Shapps came up with another ruse to damage the Lib Dem campaign. Maybe it would be fun to pose as a Lib Dem, conceding that he thought that the Tory campaign would outperform the Lib Dem’s (sort of ‘reverse ramping’). Only trouble is that he slipped up, and accidentally posted his comment on YouTube whilst logged in as himself!


Tim Ireland does an excellent job of unravelling this on his ‘Bloggerheads‘ site and goes so far as to predict some excuses that Grant Shapps might come up with. Shapps excuse, which was among Tim’s predictions, is that ‘someone else was using his YouTube account’. He goes on to claim that his YouTube password was ‘1234’, which was very easy to guess.

It’s an excuse that is not washing with many people – as Catherine Tate’s ‘Nan’ character would have it: ‘what a load of old shit!’

A Natural Home

Iain Dale was, I think, first with the news that five Labour Councillors have defected to the Tories in Ealing. He goes on to quote their joint statement thus:

‘we believe the Conservatives have become our natural home’

I have a mental picture of some of the dyed in the wool Telegraph reading blue rinse and bow tie brigade choking on their cornflakes at the idea that five Labour councillors now find that they feel at home in Cameron’s Conservatives!