Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Can Labour really go on like this for another two years?

The weekend saw me in France on a short holiday so I missed the Sunday papers until today when I got home.

The media agenda is dominated by references to the final two years of John Major; when his troubles just mounted and multiplied as the end came of his administration.

I am struck by yet more simularities between Brown and IDS - our party's ill-fated leader during the 2001-2004 darkest hour and the man who was so unceremoniously ousted after little more than two years in the job and replaced with a caretaker leader whose role became avoiding meltdown and stabilising the vote ahead of the looming 2005 general election; a task successfully undertaken by Michael Howard.

The summer lead up to the 2003 Conservative Conference was a vital period of conspiring amongst Tory MP's away from the party Whips in Westminster. Unencumbered by the need to watch who they were seen talking to, MP's freely negotiated the deal from holiday villa's and their gardens over the summer recess all the while briefing journalists that the 2003 conference speech would be IDS' last - as indeed it turned out to be.

The conference itself was surreal; and one I will never forget. I felt I was alone in thinking that changing leader would not make much difference - our poll ratings had actually improved slightly because of IDS' softening tone and focus on caring for the many and not just the few but the party couldn't see past his truly dismal public performances and preferred to retreat to the comfort zone of tough talking on crime and immigration which a change of leader would open the door to.

The entire conference was always going to be about one thing and one thing only, getting rid of IDS as quickly and as peacefully as possible.

I am becoming convinced that Labour will very soon undergo a similar process, not two years after their last leadership coup conference when T Blair was forced into giving a timetable to quit in 2006; I expect the Labour Party conference to be about nothing else - no policies, no plans for the future but instead an orgy of internicine warfare and plotting that could well culminate in him going before Christmas.

This is a change - for ages I have been working on the assumption that because of Labours very Byzantine rules concerning leadership challenges Gordon Brown was unassailable, but the constant drip of stories from MP's and off the record briefings from cabinet ministers - if carried on through the summer silly season- could easily now become too much for Labour MP's to put up with on top of their poll ratings which seem to be going in just one direction.

More importantly it could also become too much for the union bosses who now hold the Labour Party in the palm of their hands and need a reasonable labour movement to survive into the long term, and who also will want to avoid having to cough up the £20m Labour Party overdraft they are reported to be guaranteeing.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Well I agree with you, Nick.

£20bn in spending cuts and tax cuts for the lowest paid - a brilliant proposal yesterday from Nick Clegg (or Cameron Lite as he has become rather cruelly known in some circles).
I couldn't agree more, in fact I was standing for election just two years ago on exactly that platform - cut taxes by £20bn through efficiency savings and spend some of the money on raising the income tax threshold to take the lowest paid out of income tax altogether, proposals which Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson David Laws bitterly criticised, describing them as "implausible and undeliverable". He said at the time: "We don't believe these plans are achievable and nor do the majority of the British public."

What a difference 24 months - three leaders and a third off your polling numbers make, eh?

Now the very same people who brought you 4p on your income tax and a 50p top tax rate are new converts to a new world of lower taxes and swingeing £20bn spending cuts - not sure where from, but no doubt their very own financial wizard (er, don't you mean 'magician' - Ed.) Vince Cable will enlighten us eventually.

I think this potential change in strategy is a wise reaction to the London/C&N/Henley results. Clearly the Lib Dems cannot hope to beat the Conservatives in a face off against them and their best bet of maintaining a credible number of MP’s is to look to make gains in the North to compensate for losses in the South.

I do wonder how all those Labour voters who supported the Lib Dems in seats like Torbay will view Nick Cleggs rightwing conversion, but he must have thought that one through and decided he doesn't need them.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Car Tax- the controversy grows.

At last the mainstream media have picked up on the tickling time bomb that is the vehicle Excise Duty changes due to filter in during next year.

Nearly half of all drivers will be hit with significant rises in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), while fewer than one in five will see any benefit from the reforms, according to official data.

The figures directly contradict Gordon Brown's claim in the House of Commons that most drivers will actually gain from the changes.

It’s not the car tax itself but the way in which the bad news has been hidden away until extracted by the media later on.

This is stealth taxing, and while Brown could get away with it in the late ’90s when the economy was booming and general taxes were still relatively low nowadays people can readily see it’s a dishonest way to do business.

If this Government was a consumer company they would be a ‘You and Yours’ and ‘Watchdog’ repeat offender.