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Archive for February, 2011

22
Feb

Quote of the day: Mike Tuffrey.

“From Boris Johnson’s perspective, I think he might be pretty pleased with where he is at the moment. You win a mayoralty in London by commanding a broad coalition of support. So you have to attract your core vote, you have to depress the support of your principal opponent and for the undecideds you have to put forward an attractive proposition for London as a whole. And by that standard I think an honest, sober assessment is that Boris Johnson is doing some things right.”

(Mike Tuffrey, Lib Dem member of the London Assembly.)

21
Feb

Gaddafi, Chavez and Livingstone: Ken’s shame.

It is horrendous to see the tragic atrocities that have occurred in Libya in the last few days. Having finally had enough of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s lengthy and aggressive dictatorship – and surely drawing inspiration from Egypt’s recent removal of Hosni Mubarak – the Libyan people have risen up against the government as part of what seems like a monumental political sea-change in the Middle East. Gaddafi has, predictably, responded to the riots and demonstrations in the only way he knows – with force. Libyan soldiers have opened fire on protesters and mourners alike, in a brutal attempt to repress the anti-government movement. Hundreds of people are thought to have been killed in what has been described as ‘genocide’ by Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN.

Meanwhile, it is now being reported that Gaddafi – his grip on power weakening by the hour – has fled the country. Who, though, would be so depraved and immoral as to welcome the shamed, discredited, overthrown instigator of mass murder? The answer, of course, is obvious: his old socialist chum Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, claims to have seen evidence that Gaddafi is indeed on his way to Caracas. Despite Chavez’s personal commitment to his country’s democratisation, he has shown dictatorial tendencies of his own – the country’s seen politically motivated arrests, reduced press freedom, and an orchestrated erosion of the judiciary’s independence. Chavez has been widely criticised by, amongst others, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – not just for these matters, but also for his alliance with the likes of Gaddafi. That he has (allegedly) so readily offered exile to the perpetrator of the evil massacre of innocent people says a huge amount about the kind of person he is, and about the kind of government that he leads. Frankly, even if Hague’s intelligence turns out to be incorrect, it is still a grave embarrassment and indictment of Chavez’s character that the world has barely raised an eyebrow at today’s news.

He is not, you might say, the kind of person you’d typically choose to work for or be friends with. Unless, of course, your name’s Ken Livingstone…

Livingstone’s relationship with Chavez is as strong as Chavez’s relationship with Gaddafi. The three are near-inseparable in terms of their fanaticism of socialism. Ken, when Mayor of London, famously agreed an oil deal with Venezuela so lacking in moral-fibre that one of Boris’ first acts as mayor was to cancel it. Boris said at the time that he refused to be on Chavez’s payroll. Ken had no such concerns – within months of losing the mayoralty in 2008, he had agreed to act as a consultant to Chavez on policing, transport and urban affairs. He insisted that his association with Chavez – whom he described as a friend – was not controversial “unless you believe American propaganda”.

Unfortunately for Ken, most people do believe the Americans, and the news that Chavez has offered political exile to a massacring dictator rather supports their argument. All of this, of course, comes just a month after Ken was revealed to have been paid thousands of pounds by Iranian state television. As a friend of Hugo Chavez and [former] employee of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it becomes increasingly clear that Ken cares not who he consorts with in his unrelenting pursuit of socialism and cash. ‘Guilt by association’ is often said to be a bit of a fallacy – but in the case of Ken Livingstone, those he associates with offer a very real reflection of his character.

20
Feb

Quote of the day: Boris.

“I haven’t got a cat’s chance in hell of becoming Prime Minister…but as I’ve said before, if I was called from my plough to serve in head office, then obviously I would do my best.”

(Boris – referring to Cincinnatus, a Roman aristocrat who left Rome to work on a small farm before returning triumphantly to the city to lead its defence against invasion in the 5th Century BC.)

20
Feb

Happy Birthday Gordon.

Wishing a very happy 60th birthday to Gordon Brown. He is still much missed.

20
Feb

Daily Mail cancer warnings beyond parody.

The Daily Mail’s obsessive attempts to classify every inanimate object known to man into various cancer-related groupings – those that cause cancer, those that don’t cause cancer, those that prevent cancer – is a long-running joke in the world of print media. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing funny about cancer; there is something bizarre about the paper’s fixation with what does and doesn’t make us ill, and the frequently contradictory articles that they publish on a near-daily basis. Even despite its track record, the paper’s truly excelled itself in the last couple of days.

This was published yesterday…

This was published today…

(Hat-tip: willshome on Twitter.)

15
Feb

Ed Balls’ beauty finally recognised.

It was quite remiss of me to forget to congratulate Ed Balls yesterday on being voted the 5th most attractive male MP in a Sky News poll. It was presumably photos such as the below which helped him secure such a worthy and deserved accolade.

14
Feb

Poll shows Boris backers can have no complacency.

A YouGov poll out today shows Boris to be two points behind Ken in the mayoral race – a small change from the last poll, done back in October, in which Boris led Ken by a couple of points. However, when respondents were asked who they’d choose given a straight choice between Boris and Ken, Boris held a 45-42 advantage. This suggests that Boris would currently pick up a greater proportion of the others’ second preferences – an interesting factor, given Ken led Boris on second preferences back in 2008.

There are a few other observations to be made. Firstly, Boris is considerably more popular than his party in the capital. The same poll gave Labour a 16-point (50-34) lead amongst Londoners. Ken, by contrast, is less popular than his party. Secondly, one of Boris’ biggest deficits to Ken is amongst 18-24 year olds, where he trails 49-31. Whilst he’s not helped by students’ anger towards the coalition, one of his biggest challenges will be to persuade young people that he’s on their side and understands their needs. Thirdly, it’s interesting to see that Boris is more popular than Ken amongst those in the C2/D/E social classes. It makes an utter mockery of Labour’s anti-Eton, anti-’toff’ rhetoric. The fact is that when a politician has worked hard to keep taxes down, the electorate couldn’t care less where his parents sent him to school. That’s how it should be.

The last point to be made is on the issue of complacency. It could actually be a blessing in disguise that Boris has slipped behind Ken in the polls, if Tories take it as both a wake-up call and evidence that Boris faces the fight of his life over the next 15 months. I’ve been concerned for a while at how complacent a lot of London Tories seem to be about Boris’ re-election prospects. Even today, they seem to have expressed a mixture of shock, bemusement and scepticism at the fact that Boris isn’t miles clear in the polls. “Have Londoners forgotten what life was like under Ken?!” asked one, in astonishment. Yes, they probably have. That’s what happens in politics. The grass is invariably greener – no more so than when the incumbent’s party is embarking on a programme of huge cuts. Indeed, the resentment towards the Tories will be even stronger by this time next year, making Boris’ task even tougher. He needs to work hard on refining a clear, positive, independent message, and Boris backers everywhere need to work even harder to spread that message.

14
Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day from Boris.

13
Feb

Boris’ achievements to date.

I said in my last post how next year’s mayoral election will be a straight fight between Boris’ record and Ken’s record, and between Boris’ policies and Ken’s policies. The policies will come in due course, but Boris already has a record to be proud of. See below ten of his top achievements since taking office, ten things he protected in the Comprehensive Spending Review and a comparison of five pledges he made in 2008 with the results so far…

13
Feb

Boris’ minimal incumbency advantage.

There was an article on PoliticalBetting.com a couple of weeks ago which asked ‘How important is Ken to Labour’s recovery plan?’. The answer to that question is simple: ‘massively’. I expect to see every single Labour bigwig spending days, weeks and even months out campaigning for Ken in the hope of inflicting a massive blow to Cameron and the government. I certainly expect to see numerous reenactments of the RedEd-RedKen clinch (see pic). Likewise, Boris’ campaign is just as important to the government’s future success, and we can expect to see myriad senior Tories out on the campaign trail as we approach next year’s poll.

There’s actually an argument that the Lib Dems would benefit from a Boris win, too. For now, the Tories and Lib Dems are electorally one item. If Boris is voted out, it would reflect badly on the government as a whole, not just the Tories. If he wins, it will be seen as at least a partial backing of the government’s actions. I wonder if this is part of the reason for the Lib Dem’s slowness in selecting a candidate of their own. I wonder, too, if they’ve considered not fielding a candidate at all.

The part of the PoliticalBetting article which most interested me was the assertion by Mike Smithson that Boris would receive an ‘incumbency bonus’ at the election. You might alternatively know the concept as an ‘incumbency advantage’ or the ‘incumbency effect’. Simply, it is the benefit or advantage that the incumbent office holder has over his/her challengers when seeking re-election. The incumbent, so the theory goes, has the advantage of experience and greater name recognition, and therefore receives an automatic head start. I’m not at all convinced that Boris will get any such advantage. He would have if Labour had selected Oona King as their candidate, but Ken Livingstone has just as strong name recognition and arguably more experience of the job than Boris. The other form of ‘incumbency advantage’ comes when an incumbent is able to use his power to offer (legal) bribes to the electorate – cutting taxes or increasing funding for something just before an election – but in these fiscally chastened times Boris’ hands are as good as tied. So no, there’ll be no such advantage for Boris – this will be a straight fight: his record against Ken’s, his policies against Ken’s. I believe that Boris wins on both counts, but is the duty of Boris supporters – Boris backers, if you will – to get that message out there.