Thursday, 19 June 2014

New blog

I am now General Editor of the British Politics Blog of the American Political Science Association. Go there for informed analyses of British politics from both sides of the pond: British Politics Blog

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Chris White rebels

Looking through the list of MPs who voted against the Coalition Government on Syria, I found my own MP from Warwick and Leamington, Chris White. He has, of course, rebelled before on HST2, but this is an issue that profoundly affects his constituents. By doing so he may well have any chances of preferment, even as a private parliamentary secretary.

The vote on Syria is significant because I would regard White as a Cameron loyalist. It does reflect the extent to which the Government got itself into a mess on this issue, particularly through a poorly conducted whipping operation and the absence of ministers 'discussing Rwanda'. It will be interesting to see how Chris White explains his actions, not that I think he was wrong to vote the way he did. If you are going to conduct a military action, you need clear objectives and you need to be confident that your action will actually achieve them.

Chris White has explained his vote here: Chris White

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Visiting No 10

I have been to No 11 Downing Street before, but today I was invited to a lunchtime reception promoting the referendums for city mayors in my capacity as chair of the Warwick Commission on Elected Mayors.

Michael Heseltine introduced the speakers and joked, 'I hope it will not be misunderstood when I say how pleased I am to welcome you to 10 Downing Street.'

Dave Cameron put the case for elected mayors in terms of greater accountability (being directly elected rather than indirectly elected as leaders of a council); promoting economic growth; and as a platform for developing national political talent. He also noted that the Mayor of Mogadishu in Somalia was called Mayor Tarzan.

Boris Johnson was almost a cabaret turn, albeit one with perfect timing and some good lines. He said that he would 'like to thank Dave for letting me into No.10'.

Closing the proceedings, Michael Heseltine said that whatever else Boris achieved, he would also be remembered as the man who succeeded him as MP for Henley.

The famous photos of prime ministers on the stairs look a little squashed up, but no doubt they can be arranged one day to make more room.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

'Granny tax' may be bad politics

Media coverage of the Budget this morning is focussing on the so-called 'Granny Tax' with some criticism coming from the right-wing press. In part this reflects the fact that it was the one part of the Budget that wasn't leaked in advance (apart from the tax on pasties and sausage rolls). It may well be good policy but bad politcs.

There isn't really a logical justfication for special allowances for the retired (they were introduced by Churchill in 1925), particularly when tax threshholds are being increased. The one argument that is put forward is that it penalises thrift.

One pensioner interviewed in a vox pop said that she didn't think they should be taxed at all. Given the services they consume this is a bit rich to say the least. Pensioners have also been relatively unscathed by austerity with a big pensions increase this April and bus passes and winter fuel allowances untouched. But it illustrates the political problem. There are a lot of retired people and they turn out and vote in numbers.

Another sting in the tail is that the threshhold for paying the higher rate of 40 per cent will actually fall next year making another million people higher rate taxpayers. Some of these people will be in the much vaunted 'squeezed middle'.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Political posters

Some classic political posters here: Posters

The Conservative ones seem to be more effective, even if they are misleading. Remember 'Labour Isn't Working'? 'Life's Better Under the Conservatives' captured the mood of an era, even if the country was facing serious problems of economic competitiveness.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas cheer in the polls for Dave

After a long period in which the polls have been in a 'holding pattern', they have delivered a Christmas present for Dave Cameron in terms of a jump in the ratings: Polls

As the experts at Nottingham University point out, this is undoubtedly related to the exercise of the European 'veto' and probably involves an erosion of UKIP support. However, they also doubt whether the boost will be an enduring one, given the low salience of the EU in British politics and the fact that UKIP voters have other concerns.

Nevertheless, it does once again raise the issue of why the Labour Party is not doing better given the overall economic and political situation. One reason is that the polling evidence suggests that the electorate have no confidence in their economic competence, a reasonable given view given the way in which they spent what would have been a substantial budget surplus after 2001.

The other factor is Ed Miliband who continues to fail to impress. There are situations in which he could made more off. For example, the 'We are the 99 per cent' claim of the Occupy movement does resonate, even though it is ultimately spurious given that it assumes that the 99 per cent have a homogeneous set of interests and values which is clearly not the case. Nevertheless, Miliband could have recognised that they had an emotional case which required some intellectual development.

What instead we get is a lot of dithering and sitting on the fence as he tries to steer a course, for example, between the public sector unions and those who work in the private sector. In the dispute over public sector pensions, the Government has had to make some concessions but has largely got what it wanted in terms of higher contributions, later retirement ages and smaller entitlements.

Labour loyalists seem determined to stick with Ed to the last, however.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Do English cities want elected mayors?

Next May voters in eleven English cities will be asked if they want elected mayors - which already exist in fourteen locations ranging from the rather special case of London to smaller towns such as Bedford and Mansfield.

The Warwick Commission on Elected Mayors which I am chairing has been set up to provide an evidence base for considering the case for and against elected mayors. We are interested in whether they make a real difference compared with more traditional forms of local government. Some people think that the idea is an important democratic innovation, others that it is just a gimmick.

If voters in one or more cities do choose to have them, we need to think about how they can be effective and this will be one of the Commission's tasks. Read more here: Elected mayors

I have also written a longer post about this topic on the LSE Politics and Policy blog: Elected mayors