There is far more at stake in the street protests that have rocked Hong Kong in recent days than the future governance of the former British colony itself.
There are two conclusions from last week’s independence referendum in the Scotland that the Labour Party needed to grasp at its annual conference in Manchester this week. The first is that the yearning for a better society still has the capacity to inspire and motivate people to take part in politics in large numbers.
The Scottish question has been answered, at least for now, so inevitably the English question has come roaring onto the political agenda with David Cameron’s pledge to resolve the anomaly of the West Lothian question with English votes for English laws.
The late momentum for the Yes campaign in Scotland should not have surprised anyone. The warning signs had been obvious for months. Faced with largely negative reasons for sticking with the status quo, many Scots have concluded that a Union held together with fear isn’t worth saving.
The inquest into England’s worst ever World Cup campaign has focused on the usual questions of team selection, tactics and the attitude of the players, along with the obligatory search for a scapegoat.
After a week in which Ed Miliband has been repeatedly assaulted by a tag-team of hostile commentators over his supposed leadership failings, it needs to be pointed out that the criminal wrongdoing of Andy Coulson would have gone completely unpunished without the Labour leader’s decision to take a public stand against phone hacking by News International in
As Westminster’s opinion formers and pundits once again join the chorus to declare that Ed Miliband’s leadership is in crisis it’s worth recalling that we’ve been here on at least three occasions already in this parliament. Each time Miliband has bounced back to the surprise and irritation of his critics. He is perfectly capable of doing so again.
New political eras begin when the ideas that define them are embraced by those most reluctant to accept their logic.
Responding to Russian belligerence in Crimea without escalating the crisis to the point of armed conflict will require immense resources of western unity and resolve over a long period. That hasn’t stopped two Conservative ministers, Nick Boles and Sajid Javid, from seeking domestic political advantage from the situation.
For three years Ed Miliband has been swimming against the tide of elite incomprehension. What, if anything, is Milibandism? Is it a variant of New Labour or a return to party traditionalism? Surely if it doesn’t mean either of these things it can’t really mean anything at all.
All governments embrace some kind of economic diplomacy as part of their foreign policy, but the one pursued by the next Labour government will need to be different in substance and more ambitious in scale if Ed Miliband’s vision of responsible capitalism is to stand the best chance of success.
The fact that David Cameron remains the only major party leader yet to agree to televised leaders’ debates at the next election is a sure sign that he would gladly drop them if he could possibly get away with it.
Watching the furore over the Daily Mail’s attack on Ed Miliband’s father as “the man who hated Britain” I was reminded of the paper’s initial response to Danny Boyle’s hugely popular opening ceremony at last year’s Olympics.
The thought collective of Blairite and Cameroonian commentators who rushed to accuse Ed Miliband of vacating the centre ground with his promise to freeze energy prices must be scratching their heads at the lift in public support it appears to have given Labour. Surely the party’s ratings ought to have slumped.
The two most obvious things missing from Labour’s electoral pitch until now have been specific policy detail and a sharp enough populist edge. Ed Miliband corrected both of these omissions today in a speech that set down some important new political dividing lines and gave real substance to Labour’s cost of living agenda.
We can agree that the tough positions Ed Miliband has taken on welfare and public spending since the spring are necessary because Labour won’t be trusted to govern if its numbers don’t add up. But the immediate price has been a loss of definition, which is something else Labour can’t win without.
The question posed by journalists this morning is; what did Ed Miliband and Ed Balls know about the smear tactics used by Damian McBride, now recounted in a tell-all memoir of his time spent as Gordon Brown’s spin doctor? The answer, I have no doubt, is a lot less than the journalists posing the question.
Blairites old and neo are still on the warpath, literally and figuratively, over Syria.
Entirely by accident, and without a majority of any major party wanting it, Parliament has ended up adopting a position of non-intervention on Syria. Responsibility for this debacle rests primarily with the Government for failing to make a watertight case that the Assad regime ordered the use of chemical weapons against its own people.
The spectre of Iraq looms large in the debate about Syria, but even those reluctant to consider military intervention must acknowledge important differences between the two cases. This time the evidence of serious wrongdoing is accepted far beyond the Anglosphere and extends to France, the Arab League and many others.
It’s easy to sympathise with the petition launched by gay rights activists calling for a boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. The persecution of gay men and lesbians in Russia is a serious and growing trend that demands strong condemnation.
Support for enlargement used to be the nearest British politics got to a consensus on Europe. Whatever else divided them, pro-Europeans and Eurosceptics agreed that widening the EU to bring in new members states would be good for Britain and good for Europe. Not any more.
The recent mini-revolt of Blairite grandees is about much more than the outcome of the next election. It’s a rearguard to defend an entire way of doing politics – the New Labour project itself.
Shifting Grounds accepted an invitation to join Ed Miliband on the campaign trail in Bristol on Saturday. The West Country is something of a spiritual home for us, given the number of our contributors who live in places like Bristol, Bath and Frome, so in effect we were welcoming the Labour leader to our local patch.
Among those who think there are things that Labour should learn from Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, there have always been two schools of thought: those who argue that Labour should respond by adopting her ideas and those who want Labour to fight back by adopting her style and her determination, as David Cameron put it on Wednesday, to make the political weat
The news that Margaret Thatcher passed away earlier today provokes a mix of feelings. Few other leaders in British history have left a legacy as powerful or paradoxical.
Ten years ago this week I was in the process of helping Robin Cook resign from government. Most of the previous decade had been spent helping him to get into government and stay there, so it’s fair to say that walking out in protest wasn’t how it was meant to end.
Let the post-mortems begin. Everyone with an opinion on the Eastleigh result has been getting in on the act, so I might as well get my two-penneth in. These are my conclusions.
1) Rumours of the Liberal Democrats’ death have been greatly exaggerated.
The circumstances of this by-election couldn’t have been worse from Nick Clegg’s point of view.
If there has been a worse Chancellor of the Exchequer in my lifetime than George Osborne I am struggling to put a name to him.
Growth is certain to return to the British economy in advance of the next election, but there is no reason to think that it will be spectacular or that it will produce the kind of feel-good factor that would make the result a foregone conclusion.
Andrew Harrop at the Fabian Society produced a good and cautiously positive analysis of Labour’s electoral prospects at the weekend. Based on a specially commissioned YouGov poll, it concluded that Labour’s support has been boosted since 2010 by the addition of 2.3 million Liberal Democrat defectors, 1.
Tantric or not, David Cameron’s long-awaited Europe speech didn’t make the earth move for me. What we got was a confused argument that pointed in several different directions at once as it tried and failed to reconcile the demands of Conservative backbenchers while sounding reasonable to an international audience.
Why don’t we have a referendum on the state of the railways? I ask this in all seriousness because a YouGov poll this week showed that more voters regard transport as an important issue for them and their families than Europe. In fact the poll ranked nine issues as being of greater direct concern to them than our relationship with Brussels.
Labour’s recent decision to join hardline anti-European Tories in voting for a freeze in the EU budget received a sniffy response from commentators and established pro-European grandees like Lord Mandelson. It was either dismissed as an act of base opportunism or taken as a hint that Labour might be drifting back into its old Eurosceptic habits.
A referendum on Europe is apparently in the offing, but we don’t yet know what form it would take. David Cameron has expressed support for some kind of vote while ruling out a straight in/out choice. It is said he wants to renegotiate the terms of our EU membership and then give us the opportunity to express our approval accordingly.
It’s been a struggle to convince myself that this year’s US presidential race matters very much. In 2004 and 2008, I followed every twist and turn of the campaign, every new poll, on a daily and sometimes hourly basis from the convention season to the result. This time I have come to the party late and without any enthusiasm.
Alex Salmond has now asked the Scottish Government’s legal advisers for an opinion on the implications of independence for Scotland’s membership of the European Union.
It’s been a rollercoaster year for the Don’t Underestimate Ed Miliband Association (DUEMA). Formed semi-seriously by Telegraph writer Iain Martin after the 2010 Labour leadership election, it subsequently became an in-joke among Miliband’s detractors before being taken over and renamed the Don’t Unseat Ed Miliband Association.
We have heard a lot recently about the attitude of conservative politicians on both sides of the Atlantic towards people they evidently regard as their social inferiors.
My concern this time last week was that Ed Miliband wasn’t getting the credit he deserves for the skill and tenacity with which he has turned his party around over the last couple of years. Well, I don’t need to worry about that any more.
The most important thing about a leader’s speech is that it should tell people something they didn’t already know. It could be an expectation confounded, a new policy rolled out, the enunciation of a fresh political vision or the visible growth of a leader’s personal qualities. We got all of that from Ed Miliband today.
I got a taste of how established opinion would react to Ed Miliband’s leadership within minutes of his election in Manchester two years ago when I bumped into a News International journalist of my acquaintance at the conference bar.
After their Brighton conference, we certainly know more about how the Liberal Democrats plan to revive their electoral appeal ahead of the next election.
It’s more than two years since the long-anticipated “progressive moment” evaporated in failure and acrimony as coalition negotiations with Labour collapsed and the Liberal Democrats entered power with the Conservatives. Hard feelings linger, but enough is enough.
Who would have thought this time last year that two of the three main party leaders would be facing serious challenges to their leadership and that neither of them would be Ed Miliband? It is a measure of how the political weather has changed since the last party conference season that Miliband goes into this one as the only leader with good reason to feel s
When Ed Miliband delivered his party conference speech drawing a distinction between productive and predatory capitalism last September, the gatekeepers of free market orthodoxy reacted with fury and scorn. He had insulted British business, the wealth creating heart of the nation.
What would the foreign policy of an Ed Miliband government look like? That was the challenge set for me as a contributor to The Shape of Things to Come: Labour’s New Thinking published by the Fabian Society this week.
Miliband himself has quite properly focussed on domestic priorities since becoming leader.
Labour has established a sustained double-digit lead in the opinion polls over the last three months and Ed Miliband has David Cameron “on the run” (his words, not mine) over phone hacking, as well as tax, fairness and the economy.
Any argument for school reform motivated by a sincere desire to increase social mobility deserves to be taken seriously. That’s why the debate started by Ben Mitchell’s advocacy of grammar school expansion is one that belongs on Shifting Grounds.
I seem to have started a debate, and since debate is always healthy, I am grateful to you for responding at length to my post last week on why I’m not a fiscal conservative.
You are curious about why I chose to comment on your paper, In the Black Labour (ITBL), six months after its publication.
Once taboo, the label ‘conservative’ is suddenly in vogue on the left.
We all know how the expectations management game works at election time. You play down your own prospects while trying to set an unattainable target for your opponents. The Conservatives must have been congratulating themselves for persuading the media that 700 gains was a reasonable measure of success for Labour.
UKIP outpolling the Liberal Democrats, victory for Respect in Bradford West, the BNP in Strasbourg, Britain’s first Green MP, an SNP government in Edinburgh, local elections that look set to point in several different directions at once. What’s going on? Two things, actually.
The news that the UK has officially entered a double-dip recession puts into perspective the omnishambles of the last few weeks. ‘Carry on Qatada’ and the banana skin budget could be dismissed as routine mid-term wobbles from which the government might be expected to recover.
Until George Osborne’s hara-kiri budget it was widely assumed that the economic battle lines for the next election had been firmly set. The Conservatives would eliminate the structural deficit by taking an axe to the public sector and go to the polls on the back of a modest giveaway budget and claims to have sorted out Labour’s mess.
The main internal obstacle to a Labour victory at the next election isn’t Old Labour or New Labour; it’s Desperate Labour.
Desperate Labour has been out in force today, mostly grumbling in the shadows, but sometimes screaming in the sunlight.
Rarely has a budget been as universally panned as the one George Osborne delivered on Wednesday. Surveying the headlines of the last two days must have been a galling experience for the Chancellor.
We are going to hear a lot this week about how to face up to the economic challenges of the future and put Britain back on the road to recovery. There will be a blizzard of competing ideas about the best way to rebalance our economy, increase exports, boost investments and create the right partnership between government and industry.
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