Archive for the ‘British Politics’ Category

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Is the tipping point approaching?

May 31, 2008

TPT wonders whether Brown’s premiership is down to its final days.

With the the crushing defeat in Crewe and Nantwitch still stinging and dismal poll ratings, the only thing keeping Gordon Brown in Downing Street has been the fact that few senior figures in the Labour party are willing to put their heads above the parapet and call for Brown’s resignation. However, the formed Deputy Prime Minister Gordon Brown today praised David Milliband as a ‘great future leader’. Although he made it clear that he was not calling for Gordon Brown’s resignation, and indeed suggested that MPs would ‘pay a heavy price if you don’t get behind your leader’, this is the first time that a senior Labour figure has talked about a successor to Brown. In my view Miliband remains poor value in betting terms (though I would happily vote for him) but this does suggest that it might be a good idea to bet on Brown leaving office this year, although the Betfair odds are much less generous than those previously offered by Paddy Power.

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Why Gordon Brown is not out of the woods yet

May 26, 2008

The moment when he could have been removed seems to have passed – but will it be the first of many?

At the moment Gordon Brown seems to have dodged a bullet, as no-one has come forward to challlenge him. However, my belief is that although the Labour party seems to have a serious adversion to challenging their leaders, except when they have won three elections, I believe that there are simply too many hurdles that Brown will have to jump over to survive. This summer he wll have to naivgate the vote on the 42 days detention, put in a respectable showing in the Henley bye-election and claw back some ground in the opinion polls all while knowing that a formal challenge from any credible (or even a not so credible) candidate will probably start an avalanche that will destroy him within days, if not hours.

My view is still that the chances of Brown being forced from Number 10 before the end of the year are more than 50%. I also believe that although it is nice to see Miliband refuse to continue the fiction that the international community would somehow prefer Obama to McCain, any challenge would probably see one of the older Blairites, namely Charles Clarke or Alan Milburn in Downing Street.

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Who will succeed Gordon Brown?

May 25, 2008

TPT looks at the betting odds

Given that is increasingly likely that Gordon Brown will be forced to resign as leader of the Labour Party (and by implication Prime Minister) the question now shifts to the person who will suceed him. It is axiomatic that, if he is removed, his sucessor will not come from the Labour left, or from many of the senior cabinet members. I simply cannot see Harriet Harman, Alistair Darling (although odds of 100/1 might be a bit too long), Ed Balls or John Cruddas suceeding him. For me there are only six credible candidates; David Miliband, Alan Johnson, Jack Straw, Charles Clarke, Alan Milburn or James Purnell. Longshots whose odds are long enough to make betting on them worthwhile are: Hazel Blears, John Reid and (although I dislike his views on immigration) Frank Field. Of the six major contenders, Miliband, Straw and Purnell’s odds are simply too short while Johnson’s odds are about right.

My tips are: Alan Milburn (14/1), Charles Clarke (33/1), John Reid (50/1), Hazel Blears (100/1), Alastair Darling (100/1) and Frank Field (100/1).

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Time for Gordon Brown to go

May 23, 2008

Why there has to be a challenge to Gordon Brown

Last night’s by-election result was disastrous for Labour, not just on its own but as a confirmation of he fact that Labour are doing disastrously in the opinion polls. Although I will still be voting for them at the next election it is pretty clear that the government will lose unless they make several changes, including replacing Gordon Brown. The problem with Brown is that he doesn’t have a vision for where he want to take the country and when he does come out with a good idea, such as closing the non-domiciled tax loophole, he hasn’t got the courage to back it up in the face of criticism. Although he made the correct decision to keep British troops in Iraq, he has constantly avoided justifying his decision, allowing his critics from the left to go unchallenged, and the Tories to keep quiet about their foriegn policy ideas. Similarly, although I heartily agree with Brown’s decision to reclassify cannabis, he has generally failed to pursue Tony Blair’s respect agenda and ailenated a lot of people by refusing to compromise on abortion.

I think the problem is getting the ball rolling. If Charles Clarke or Alan Milburn were to come out and directly challenge Gordon Brown he would be gone within 24 hours. However, the problem is that no-one is willing to put their head above the parapet, at least not yet. However, I still think that such a step is necessary and inevitable. Gordon Brown is the master of backstage politics (as he showed last year) so only a direct challenge will work. The worst scenario would be a continued level of low level sniping combined with a public facade of unity. Although I accept that, in the short term a contest could be messy, I would recommend, both as a British citizen as well as a gambler, one out of; Charles Clarke, Alan Milburn, John Reid (or my personal choice) Hazel Blears.

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Time to bet on Brown doing the decent thing

May 11, 2008

Time to bet against Gordon Brown

The following bet from the Irish Bookmaker Paddy Power must be excellent value, given the problems that Gordon Brown is finding himself in. The Labour party are not as brutal about their leaders as either the Tories or the Liberal Democrats, but even they will eventually take account of dismal local election results and jawdropping polling figures.

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What Labour needs to do

May 9, 2008

TPT gives some advice to the Labour Party

The local elections and the recent political climate have been extremely disappointing for Labour. Polling worse than the Liberal Democrats in the local elections and losing over three hundred seats while trailing in the polls simply cannot be spun. It also raises the question of why this happened and where Labour go from here. The most obvious reason why Labour, and Livingstone, did so badly was simply that they have been in power for eleven years. After at most one term of incumbency advantage, all governments gradually become less popular over time as voters seek some sort of change, even if the change on offer is not something they would normally select. It is no coincidence that both British and American politics seems to operate in partisan cycles of 8 to 12 years. However, this factor does not suggest any way forward for the government and it is an incomplete and unsatisfactory explanation.

The real roots of Labour’s current poor performance lie in the 2005 election. That election was characterised by a fear in the last few weeks that poor turnout among traditional supporters would deliver a shock victory to the Conservatives. This led Tony Blair to make one of the major strategic mistakes of his premiership which was to transfer command of the campaign and organisation from Alan Milburn to Gordon Brown. Not only would this sow the seeds of Blair’s exit at the hands of Brown’s cronies, but it would also pave the way for Brown to be coronated without the leadership challenge from the modernisers that would either have exposed his flaws or at least kept him on his feet. The emphasis on core voters, or what the party’s strategists perceived to be their base, also led the government to take their eyes off the vital centre and prevented the government from fully defending their foreign policy.

While the government has been brave in its continued attempts to reform the public services it seems that it is too ready to back down in the face of criticism from vested interests, whether in the police, armed forces or the health service. This has meant that Britain failed to adopt the American counterinsurgency strategy of getting in the terrorists’ face in Iraq and it has created a situation where the Association of Chief Police Officers can effectively veto the government’s reclassification of cannabis, by giving notice that they will not enforce the law. While the opposition misses no opportunity to pander to such groups, and a Conservative government led by David Cameron would encourage such interests, Labour must have confidence enough to overrule the proclaimed experts. The government also needs to accept that, while it has shown courageous leadership of issues such as gay marriage, it needs to recognise that, at the same time as promoting tolerance, there is nothing wrong with promoting the two parent family as an ideal.

The Labour Party also needs to have a long think about Gordon Brown. Although his emphasis on short term gestures served the party well when a snap election seemed possible, he now seems incapable of the transition to an extended period of governing. Although he has correctly decided to keep troops in Iraq, seems to be starting to make some noises about law and order and has broken with Bob Shrum, Brown generally seems to be unsure about where he wants to take the country. Whether he is presented with a bottle of whisky and a revolver or is fully backed, the party cannot afford the low level sniping that characterised the Major government from ‘Black Wednesday’ onwards. A challenge from Charles Clarke or, at the very least, notice that Brown has until the conference to pull his socks up would be the best solution. However, if his critics are too afraid to challenge him they must then have the courage to fully support him. It would help matter if Brown acknowledged that some policies, such as ID cards and the tax changes, may be worth reconsidering.

Although there are considerable grounds for improvement it is important to recognise both that the government has achieved a lot and the alternatives would be disastrous for Britain. The government has managed to improve Britain’s standing with America and Europe, it has helped deliver democracy around the world while it reforming both our constitution and public services. It has also managed to make Britain a fairer country without letting public expenditure spiral out of control or harming economic competitiveness. It was with pride that I voted for Labour in 2001, 2005 and last week. Although I will admit that some Liberal Democrats have a few interesting ideas on economic and financial policy, almost of their policies on defence, social policy and other issues are unworkable. Similarly, the Conservatives seem to flip from rabid populism to libertarian elitism and back. There are also serious question marks about David Cameron’s ability to handle either foreign or economic policy, though questions did not stop Boris Johnson being elected Mayor of London. It is precisely because the government has achieved so much, that it is worth taking radical steps to protect its achievements.

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Final thoughts on last night

May 3, 2008

TPT gives his final thoughts on the Mayoral Election.

1. From a betting point of view the results were dire. My last minute bet on Ken Livingstone proved to be wasted, while despite the projections that Johnson would get 46% of the vote, in the end he failed to pass the 45% mark.

2. The election of Boris Johnson proves that, no matter how controversial the opposing candidate, if you run a poor enough campaign you will lose. If Labour had run a generic candidate and stuck to the issues they would have beaten Johnson.

3. My final Samplemiser projection was a Boris lead of 8.15%, which was not far off the 6.1% margin.

4. Although I wish Johnson all the best I will be counting down the days until May 1st 2012. Hopefully, Ken Livingstone will not throw his hat in the ring again. The fact that the BNP got an assembly seat is really depressing.