Tag Archives: Brown

A look at the second leader’s debate

22 Apr

It’s here, the much-anticipated second leader’s debate. What will happen? Will Clegg triumph again? Will Brown again posture towards the Lib-Dems or will he try to go it alone? Will Cameron finally bring up his Big Society policy, even though it has nothing to do with foreign affairs, the topic for the second debate?

Below is a brief synopsis of how I think it will go for each leader.

Nick Clegg

His star is shining bright, so there will be sky high expectations of him. Unfortunately, foreign affairs is probably the Lib-Dems worst subject. Clegg has flip-flopped on the Euro issue and now says taking on the Euro would be a mistake, but at the same time, it is there in black and white in the Lib-Dem manifesto that one day the UK should accept the Euro. Essentially, the Lib-Dems love Europe, especially Clegg. This isn’t necessarily going to go down well with some swing voters, but the question is, how many of these people are actually going to vote for the Lib-Dems anyway?

Clegg is also in an interesting position as expectations are high. Brown and especially Cameron are going to try to ground him. But all Clegg has to do is misquote Reagan again and again – “There they go again” in response to the two bigger parties’ attacks. He probably doesn’t need to answer a question other than make everyone feel sorry for the little guy. I feel this is the best option, because going on the attack and trying to be equal to Labour and the Tories on foreign policy is a mistake – because he’d lose.

David Cameron

If Clegg is under pressure, Cameron is under just as much if not more. He has to up his game significantly from the first debate, where he forgot to mention his key domestic policies. Problem is, foreign affairs isn’t the Tories strongest subject and they have been out of power for 13 years, so their international reputation may not be as strong as they’d like it to be.

Cameron will be hit on his ‘iron clad guarantee’ for a referendum on Europe. It obviously isn’t going to happen and there are a lot of conservatives, not party members, just conservatives, who don’t trust his Europe policies. Likewise, Brown and Clegg are both going to hammer him on the Conservative’s relationships within Europe, including his Polish partners.

His promise to keep an independent DFID and legislate a 0.7% aid budget will also come under fire from ultra-conservative voters. I know many aid groups are pleasantly surprised by this, but when you can’t secure your base, it’s not the best strategy to try to out flank your opposition from the left.

Cameron is also going to mention the Iran question, but his intervention during the green revolution was reported by some as a gaffe. The UK and the USA statements focused on a “we’re watching with interest”, because they knew public support of the protestors would enable the Iranian officials to claim the unrest was caused by UK and USA intervention. However, Cameron came out and decried the lack of support from Brown to the protestors and publically stated that the protestors had the support of the UK people. This was naive foreign policy.

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown has relationships overseas, in fact believe it or not, he is very well-respected internationally, in 2009 he was voted world statesmen of the year and is respected overseas more than in the UK. This is his biggest trump card and needs to play it. This is hugely beneficial for issues such as the Tobin Tax, Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East in general. Afghanistan funding will again be a weak spot due to issues such as the numbers of helicopters etc.

He also needs to be more forceful I feel. Although he performed above expectations in the last debate, I think the Iron Chancellor needs to be on the stage. Due to the lack of audience interaction, jokes don’t necessarily play well on TV due to the silence in the studio – it makes it sound like the joke has fallen flat. Brown did well confronting Cameron on the police issues in the first debate and I thought the “it’s answer time not question time”, was effective. He needs to do it again, especially on Europe.

Brown is less pro-EU that Clegg, he keeps Europe at an arm’s length, but with an open palm, not a clenched fist. This will make voters feel more comfortable.

But he still has the image problem and that will be his biggest weakness.

All-in-all, it will be a fascinating evening and I’m looking forward to seeing the polls the next day.

cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms.


Brown versus the volcano

20 Apr

If you live in London, you may have seen yesterday’s Evening Standard front page headline Gordon’s ark.

In the time of an election, rarely does a Prime Minister have the

Copyright Evening Standad

opportunity to appear truly Prime Ministerial, however in this very unique case, an opportunity has been served on a plate to Gordon Brown.

The Evening Standard hasn’t been Brown’s greatest fan over the years, but this headline  and this story as a whole adds a whole new chaotic dimension to this election campaign. What is particularly novel about this crisis, is that no lives are actually at risk, it is all about inconvenience, granted it is incredibly inconvenient and could be significantly damaging to the airline industry. I would suspect however that many airlines will be given significant payouts through the EU to ensure they stay afloat.

Every party would love to be able to make political gains because of this crisis, but at the same time they all have to be exceptionally careful not to appear to be doing so. If the Conservatives or the Lib-Dems attack Labour for not helping the stranded, than they can be accused of playing political games, likewise, Labour can’t appear to be too chest thumping about sending in the Navy to save British lives, especially when none are really at risk.

Only time will tell about how this plays out and whether the volcano keeps spluttering away, but this is definitely one of the issues that is making this one of the most exciting elections I’ve witnessed.

This is an update to the piece I posted yesterday, Will the volcano affect the election? and cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms.

The Tories are running a gauntlet by questioning Labour’s Union links

17 Mar

Recently, the Tories have been highlighting Labour’s links with the Unions, in particular Unite in a clear response to Labour’s Lord Ashcroft attacks. Without question Labour is closely connected with Unite, whose political director, Charlie Whelan happens to be a former advisor to Number 10 and was allegedly one of those who unleashed the forces of hell on Alistair Darling.

But, are the Conservatives asking for trouble by going down this road?

The Conservatives seem to think that voters will be astonished that Labour has links with the Unions. Umm, that is just the way it is and the way it has always been, it isn’t going to change and it isn’t a surprise to the public. Issue over.

The Conservatives also seem to be under the impression that this connection will outrage voters. Well, again, everyone knows Labour and the Unions are one and the same, so no outrage. However, instead of leaking a great secret, they are running a dangerous gauntlet. Sure, union power and membership is at a historic low, but there are still a lot of people who are union members and a lot still who have sympathy for them. The Conservatives have to be very, very careful that they don’t threaten these voters.

Unlike previous points in history, many of these members or sympathisers could have voted Conservative at this election, because of the uncertainty over Brown and the desire for change and the fact people realised they can think for themselves. However, how will these voters react to Cameron trashing the Unions and at the same time talking about public spending cuts and an age of austerity? People will add this up to mean Cameron will come down hard on the unions if he won, leading to less protection to workers, especially in the public sector, when the inevitable time for job cuts arrive. The threat to worker protection will make union voters run away from the Conservatives and back into the waiting arms of the Labour Party, who will always protect the unions.

Cameron today in PMQs spoke about breaking the picket line. Whether you are a member of a union or not, many many people feel uncomfortable with crossing a picket line. I do and I’m not a member of a union. It’s a call to action for the Tory base, but it will not necessarily grab the swing votes.

Ashcroft is also an issue in this. Why is this being raised? Because the Tories want to fight back against the Ashcroft scandal. By attacking Labour funding, they just allow Labour to bring back the Ashcroft issue again and again and again. The Tories think attack is the best form of defence and sometimes it is, but other times well should be left alone.

Finally, the Tories are obviously trying to hark back to the bad old days of the Winter of Discontent. But Labour supporters and the Unions haven’t forgotten what came after that Winter, their mortal enemy Margaret Thatcher. When Cameron talks about crossing picket lines, removing union power and significant cuts to public spending people’s minds will start reaching some uncomfortable connections.

Brown is suggesting that Cameron is trying to fuel the strike, rather than help it come to a resolution, this too is going to scare people, because it suggests to them, Cameron is for divisive politics, while Brown is trying to create himself as the great unifier. Will it work? Possibly not, but Brown suggests if there is a strike, it will be more the fault of the Tories than Labour. This of course is a tad ridiculous considering the Conservatives are in Opposition, but if sold well, it could stick in the minds of the public.

But how will this resolve itself? If the BA concerns are solved and the strike averted, then Brown will appear to be the great saviour. If there is still a strike, Labour will blame the Tories and maybe get away with it. It is an interesting situation and I think the Conservatives may have fallen into a trap. It will be interesting to see if they get out of it, but this is election politics for you.

Cross posted with Ruder Finn DotCom.

Cameron at PMQs

10 Mar

Today’s PMQs were extraordinary. David Cameron was close to boiling point when he attacked the Labour hecklers after he asked why so many former Chiefs of the Defence Staff were taking issue with the Prime Minister’s evidence at Chilcott. The hecklers claimed the answers was that they were Tories.  Cameron exploded.

The Guardian pointed out that Cameron was indeed quoting Lord Guthrie and General Sir Richard Dannatt. Lord Guthrie sits on the Cross-benches and so he therefore has no public political stance, but General Sir Richard Dannatt is indeed a Tory defence advisor. I don’t necessarily think it is a leap to suggest a Tory advisor would support the Tory line and to do so publically.  Former chief of the navy, Lord West, predicted Sir Richard’s involvement with the Conservatives would be a mistake and this is one of the cases where Sir Richard is an issue for Cameron.

Then came the really special event.  David Cameron claimed that the Conservatives ended the Cold War. I never read that version of history, in fact I believe it was Margaret Thatcher who said, “We do not want a united Germany.”

I believe that Reagan and Gorbachev played a not insignificant role.

Cameron then had a go at Labour Party members out campaigning in the 80s with CND badges on. I don’t think many people can actively claim that Nuclear disarmament is a bad thing and to assert otherwise only harkens back to the bad old days of Thatcher.

Anyway, it was fiery, but I think Brown had the day.

Why do all three leaders have an image problem?

15 Feb

In this age of 24 hour media, spin doctors, image consultants and press advisers, it really amazes me that all three leaders have a significant image problem.

Brown is seen as distant and struggles to connect with voters. Cameron, no matter how he tries, is still seen as a toff and  smarmy (mainly because he is, credit to the public where credit is due). Clegg simply doesn’t have an image.

I thought Brown’s interview with Piers Morgan last night was very good. He seemed relaxed, witty, real and engaging. I think that the interview will pay off and hopefully will show a increasing tightening in the polls. Brown didn’t seem like the distant professor but he seemed like an average everyday man, someone you might want to have a beer with.

However, Brown said something that dumbfounded me. It was in regards to the infamous YouTube video last year. Brown said that he asked his advisers should he have another go at it because he wasn’t happy with it, but his advisers said it was fine. I’m hoping, whoever that was, has been sufficiently rebuked because they failed at the number one priority of their job – to make their boss look good. I’ve written before that I thought Brown had been getting bad advice – clearly I was right.

But are all three getting such bad advice? The Cameron poster debacle make me think his marketing team is failing as well. Cameron asked in PMQs would Labour MPs want Brown’s face on their campaigning documents, but I think some Tories are probably distancing themselves from his image now too.

Clegg is struggling to get any spotlight at the moment, but when the media will be obliged to give the Lib-Dems some column inches during the campaign, I’m sure this will change, but not my much.

So, who’s fault is it, the advisers or the candidates?

Will Copenhagen be a failure?

15 Nov

Thoroughly depressing news to wake up to this morning. It looks like our feared about the Copenhagen climate change talks have come true. World leaders have admitted that there is likely to be no final resolution and that the Copenhagen talks are most likely to be a starting point to talks rather than an end point.

At the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum leaders including Barack Obama, Hu Jintao and Kevin Rudd, who have all drawn up significant plans for ETS deals and other environmental strategies in their own nations, appear to have given up on uniting world nations’ to come up with a meaningful deal.

This is disappointing, but not unexpected. There has been some intense expectation management over the last few weeks and it seemed almost inevitable that there was to be no lasting strategy to come out of this meeting. The EU has set out strategies to help nations meet their climate change targets,  but nothing has been set in stone, especially in regards to money being set-aside. Developing world nations have been consistently threatening to walk out of talks due to the lack of agreed funding from the developed world to help developing nations fund anti-climate change projects.

Personally, I never really had much faith in the COP15 meeting to come up with any large-scale meaningful treaty. The fact is though, Kyoto formally ends at the end of 2011, begining of 2012. This obviously leaves a couple of years to create a meaningful and effective post-Kyoto deal.

The significance of a no-deal result in Copenhagen, is the number of nations that have created emission reduction schemes that will only be meaningful if there is a result in Copenhagen, the EU is one of these nations. Currently the EU has committed to a 20% reduction in carbon emissions, but it would be 30% if a deal was met in COP15.

Therefore, not reaching a result in Copenhagen will obviously be a failure. Hopefully, world leaders have something up their sleeves and will be able to swoop in at the last-minute to come up with something. In my wildest dreams I can imagine Obama, Rudd or Brown flying in at the last moment and saving the day, but realistically, I think we will still be looking forward into 2010 before a post-Kyoto deal is reached.


What the Glasgow North East victory means for the General Election

13 Nov

Not much. I’ve noticed a lot of Labour activists getting excited and saying Labour is on its way back up. This may be true to an extent, but when you look at the details of the by-election, it isn’t that cut and dry. Willie Bain won with 12,231 votes which equates to a majority of 8,111. The SNP got silver with 4,120 votes. The Tories must be disappointed with just over 1,000 votes, the fact that they haven’t made a statement suggests they are trying to ignore it.

But regards to the importance of the outcome, Labour has more or less owned that seat for 74 years and the most recent 10 of those years have been effectively uncontested as Michael Martin was Speaker, thus the Tories and Lib-Dems didn’t stand against him. You couldn’t get more Labour heartland.

Also of interest is the turnout; a record low in a Scottish Parliament. We have no real way of knowing what the turnout at a General Election will be until we have one. This is obviously at the forefront of Labour thinking, Tom Watson MP has already tweeted that the no vote party were the clear winners of the day.

But the biggest issues that is of interest is that this was a battle between incumbents. Labour, who rules the roost nationally, versus the SNP who runs Hollyrood. Neither are particularly popular that is obvious, but this, in a way, was a referendum on one or the other. Labour won this round, as it did in Glenrothes. This suggests the SNP are on the nose of the local populace, more than Labour.

Potentially, this is good news for Labour as the Tories still aren’t going to be able to take that many seats in Scotland, no matter their showing in England. I’d also suggest Labour needs to base part of campaign on the fact that Cameron has said he wants to take away Scottish seats in Westminster. I don’t think the Scots would go for that without a promise of independence.

Scotland could appear to be a bit safer than it was about 12 months ago, which will mean Labour won’t have to spend its money and time trying to keep heartland seats at the expense of marginal seats in England and Wales.

Don’t get me wrong, Labour is going to have to work hard in Scotland and would be stupid to neglect it, but the fact that a Labour heartland seat didn’t fall to another party must be a relief to the electoral strategy team.

But, the fact remains, Labour still has a lot of work to do and according to the latest polls, they are still behind by 10 points, enough for a decent Tory majority in the House.

Is this the beginning of Labour’s revival, I struggle to see that it is and I think it is more of a realignment back to the status quo than anything else. I’ve said it before, I think the polls will come closer together, but let’s wait and see.