Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Osborne fails to understand history, and the country suffers for it

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, has written another told-you-so to the fans of austerity that backed Osborne's cuts in 2010.

Today's news is the latest in the long line of bleak economic indicators, punctured only by unusually rosy-looking jobs figures (if you ignore the huge number of part-time workers forced into such a position against their wishes).

For Osborne - and Britain - the end of this year could be a disaster: leaving us with spending cuts that have only led to more debt, with a neo-liberal government who would then turn to even deeper cuts. A vicious cycle the Greeks have found themselves in and something that some commentators - including Krugman - have warned about all along.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

How the Corby by-election could further weaken the PM

Conservative Home have released details of a (larger than normal) poll of people Corby that indicates the Tories are on course to lose Louise Mensch's seat by around 15% of the vote.

This contest is interesting as, to date, the various by-elections since 2010 have all been in Labour-held seats. That the Tories may lose a seat in this manner will have two impacts. 

Firstly, it will be another knock to Cameron - to add to the seemingly endlessly negative media narrative that surrounds him.

The second effect may be an interesting one, something that Mike Smithson over at Politicalbetting has recently discussed. A defeat for the Tories would mean that the electoral mathematics could allow a 'rainbow alliance' of the left and centre (including the Lib Dems) - but excluding the SDP - to have as many seats at the current coalition. This would strengthen the hand of the Lib Dems and further weaken the Prime Minister's bargaining position. 

Monday, 13 August 2012

The real winner from the Olympics isn't Boris - it's the BBC

The media classes can often get into a state of group-think.

So, in 2011, Ed Miliband is talked of as a failure with no chance of victory by just about every major outlet. Then, all of a sudden, there is a change of heart that sweeps everyone along with it, and the next minute Cameron is facing endlessly negative coverage.

At the moment the herd mentality is that Boris Johnson, our refined and shy Tory Mayor, has benefited hugely from the games. Indeed, he may have had some benefit - although the evidence, such as the latest polling on the matter, doesn't necessarily bear this out.

In fact, the latest ICM polls on a Boris-led Tory Party indicate he'd barely shift their position in voting intention. Put simply, Miliband would still be on course to win in 2015, even with Johnson as Conservative Party leader.

The real winner is the BBC.

It has won record viewing figures, and the public's reaction to the coverage has been hugely warm. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the response to the BBC's Olympian efforts has been mortal enemies of the beeb, such as the Daily Mail and Telegraph, have written about it in highly positive ways - almost unheard of. Some recent examples from right-of-centre papers include:

Hats off to the BBC for their Olympic coverage (Daily Mail)

Brilliant Beeb can use Olympics to create 'minor sports' legacy (Daily Mail)

London 2012 Olympics: united in BBC's isles of wonder (Telegraph)

Aunty Beeb does Olympics proud (The Scotsman)

Olympics that prove UK can still deliver (Daily Mail editorial)

The BBC’s Olympics coverage has been a triumph (Metro)

Red button Olympics: The event that got us all switching on in our millions (Standard) 

That the Mail can, in its own leader column, describe the BBC's coverage as "brilliant and insightful" would have been almost unthinkable merely weeks before. The corporation has strengthened its reputation greatly through the Olympic Games and, for the time being at least, its enemies are in retreat.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Clegg's revenge on boundary changes will cost Cameron dear

The decision by Nick Clegg today - in response to David Cameron's failure to convince his backbenchers to support Lords Reform - to kill off the boundary changes that would have reduced the numbers of MPs in the Commons is a huge blow to the Tory Party.

Analysis indicated that reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 - as the boundary changes would have done - would have hit Labour and the Lib Dems harder than the Conservatives. In fact, the Tories would have been closer to a majority in 2010 (although notably would still have achieved to have gained one), had the election been fought over the proposed new boundaries.

The reason why this is so bad for the Conservative Party is because they will need every seat they can get. The failure of the reform will exacerbate the other four main reasons why the Conservative Party is unlikely to get a majority in 2015 - reasons the media frequently downplays or ignores:
  • First, its worth reminding ourselves that David Cameron and the Tory Party failed to win an election in 2010 after 13 years consecutive year of an increasingly unpopular Labour Party in power - the latter led by a very unpopular leader in Gordon Brown.
  • Second, Cameron's failure to win a majority in 2010 bodes even worse for 2015, considering no sitting Prime Minister has increased their share of the vote since Harold Wilson's re-election in 1974.  
  • Third, leadership ratings - an increasingly reliable pointer to election outcomes in modern politics - now show Ed Miliband and David Cameron neck-and-neck, after more than a year of Cameron being ahead on the measure. 
  • Fourth, the economy is in pretty dire state, especially considering the (now very optimistic-looking) forecasts the OBR were making in 2010 - with manufacturing survey after manufacturing survey after manufacturing survey also showing the 'rebalancing' of the economy is going nowhere. The Tories' original hopes that the history-defying attempts to create economic recovery through austerity and then bring in election-winning tax cuts just before the 2015 election are now a fading dream. It was a gamble, founded on ignorance of history, that has failed - as Nobel-prize winning US economist Paul Krugman never tires of pointing out.