Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour Party

There is “no evidence that the EU was interfering excessively in any aspect of British life,” a cross party group of peers from the European Union Committee of the House of Lords has found.

Their report was picked up by Toby Helm and reported in the Guardian, despite a concerted attempt by the government to bury the Lords extensive examination. Helm noted: “In a hugely damaging move for the government, the committee of the House of Lords, chaired by former Tory minister Lord Boswell, comes close to saying that ministers tried to cover up the findings, which do not support David Cameron’s claims that the EU is ‘becoming a state’ and has already accrued excessive powers.”

Lord Boswell also criticised the fact that £5mn was spent producing the report but no effort was made to make the results accessible to the public who want to know the truth about the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Meanwhile, Lord Hannay, a former British ambassador to the EU, who now advises British Influence, said: “The outcome of the government’s meticulous and evidence-based Review of the Balance of Competencies of the EU is one of the best-kept secrets of recent months, largely ignored by the media and seldom mentioned by the government itself. And yet it is a crucial element in the election debate over Britain’s future in the EU.

“The single, clear message from the review is that in none of its 32 chapters is there a compelling case for the repatriation of powers from Brussels to Westminster and Whitehall. So, while the EU needs reform, our relationship with it does not warrant wholesale dismantling,” he added.

We had the first of the TV (non) debates last week. Hosting was Jeremy Paxman who has since been criticised for his interrogation of Ed Miliband, after hundreds of complaints were lodged with Ofcom as a result.

George Eaton, The New Statesman’s political editor, reviewed the debates and said: “It was Ed Miliband who had the most to gain from tonight’s TV event – and he did. He was better-prepared, more fluent and more inspiring than David Cameron.”

Eaton observed: “The evening started badly for the PM as a forensic Jeremy Paxman pressed him on food banks, zero-hours contracts and his net migration pledge. Faced with the kind of sustained scrutiny he rarely endures, Cameron was nervy and rattled. “That’s not the question,” he helplessly pleaded when asked whether he could live on a zero-hours contract, a slip that provoked guffaws in the press room. He never recovered from these missteps and rarely appeared in control.”

It was a bumper spring issue from the New Statesman this week. One article in particular struck me, Spitalfields Nippers. It was a photographic story of the lives of children living in the East End of London in Spitalfields, before the introduction of the Welfare State.

There is an authenticity to the pictures though, and the article points out the compassion of the photographer: “Although his subjects were some of the poorest people in London, Warner’s compassionate portraits stand up in sharp contrast to the stereo typical images created by other social campaigners of that era, those who portrayed children solely as the victims of their economic circumstances and sometimes degraded them further by their very act of photography.”

The photos are raw but provide an important reminder when trying to convey how vital a welfare state is rather than constantly deriding those who need it.

The New Statesman article doesn’t appear to be online so here is one of the collection of images from the Guardian from 2014.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

David Cameron’s ‘grand plan’ to win back powers from the European Union was back in the headlines yesterday, with an in-depth article by Toby Helm, who suggested Cameron’s ‘winning’ plan had been thrown into doubt after ‘heavy weight’ countries like Germany said it would prefer to solve the euro zones problem without a European Treaty.

Cameron had pledged to renegotiate UK membership before calling an in/out referendum in 2017, as you will remember; but both Germany and France have said they would be against opening up the rulebook, and especially within the times scale outline by Cameron.

In a blow to the prime minister, who has pledged to renegotiate UK membership before calling an in/out referendum in 2017, both Germany and France are now coming out against opening up the EU rulebook again in the timescale envisaged by Cameron.

Clearly the two countries are frustrated by Cameron’s approach and have, in Helm’s words, ‘snubbed’ an offer to participate in an exchange of views with the foreign office on whether some EU powers should be returned to member states as part of a ‘review of competencies’-it emerged last week.

In addition to being complex and short sighted, it is now emerging-hardly surprisingly-that Cameron is likely to get very little support when he starts his next round of renegotiation rhetoric. You can read the article by Toby Helm in full, here.

Meanwhile, a couple of Saturdays ago Andrew Grice travelled with Labour leader Ed Miliband to Carlisle, where he observed a steady flow of passengers stop the Labour leader mid conversation with Grice in order to meet him. So struck by the general interest they had in him, Grice even pondered that these people had been planted by the party! They had not of course, but were genuinely interested in Miliband who sat in second class with other passengers.

Writes Grice, “They were genuinely interested in this politician in crowded standard class; some passengers even noted the contrast with George Osborne, whose staff had a well-publicised spat with a ticket inspector when he sat in first.

“A steady stream of passengers wanted their picture taken with the Labour leader on their phones – and of him with their children.

“Mr Miliband gave everyone time, even though he had work to do. I wondered if it was all an act but, as our three-hour journey to Carlisle progressed, it was clear that he really does like meeting people far from the Westminster bubble.”

This was a great few paragraphs, truly capturing a man who is on a mission to reach out to the public and to regain their trust. Miliband also described that the mission for Labour now is to ‘deliver real change.

 “There is a quiet revolution happening in the Labour Party. It is no longer about approving the minutes of the last meeting, or delivering leaflets. It is about delivering real change on the doorstep,” he said.

It was an intriguing insight into the Labour leader, capturing moments that many would overlook, but it’s small things such as taking time to speak to people-rather than paying them lip service that makes a real difference.

You can read the interview in full here.

As Miliband travelled up to Carlisle, so David Cameron rewarded his rich backers with a generous cut in their tax bills.

Vincent Moss covered this yesterday and said: “Three of the PM’s wealthiest cronies will have their tax bills cut by £500,000 a year, while ­millions of ordinary people endure a ­crippling benefits squeeze.”

You can read the full extent of their estimated savings here.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

Last week the wash-up of the local elections continued as the nation prepared for the Queens speech in which the coalition government would reveal what it had in store for us in the second half of its term.

Martin Kettle’s analysis of the speech summed it up well, when he suggested that Cameron’s struggling to send a clear message to the nation about the coalition is for.

It’s true, his narrative is unclear and to an extent it is imbued with his Lib Dem partners, a stage he would rather not share.

Kettle’s analysis, which you can read here, suggested that the coalition is now at loggerheads. He wrote: ‘As a consequence the larger liberal conservative project that arguably framed the first year of the coalition is far harder to discern now. Indeed it would be difficult to say that the coalition now has any distinct project beyond economic stability and the government’s survival. Not that these are unimportant. But all the coalition’s eggs are suddenly in this one frayed basket – a far cry from the earlier strong sense that it had a vision of the kind of Britain it sought to build.’

Last week Cameron and Clegg hot footed it to Basildon to tell us what they had planned for us going forward. It was designed to reassure a nation which, as the election results the previous week indicated is resolutely unsure of this coalition.

But their meeting in a factory seemed strained and tired. There was no banter and the bonhomie had disappeared.

Body language expert, Peter Collett wrote a brilliant piece pointing out the body language between the two men. Cameron using strong hand gestures to signal to the nation he is in control.

Clegg also revealed more than he realised. Collett writes: ‘While he gave Cameron lots of attention and nodded in all the right places, a look at his feet showed his weight was often on the foot furthest from the PM. Consciously, he was being supportive, but his body was secretly trying to distance him from Cameron.’

As politicians this is something we must be constantly aware of, our every move is scrutinised; one wrong move can have significant consequences. And make no mistake- it will always be noted. Read Collett’s article in full here.

Yesterday Toby Helm wrote in the Observer that ‘Ed Miliband is in a strong position to secure an outright majority at the next election, according to a new opinion poll that analyses the views and voting intentions of recent converts to Labour.’

Helm wrote: ‘The YouGov survey for the Fabian Society shows that “Ed’s converts” – people who didn’t vote Labour in 2010 but currently back the party – are made up mostly of disgruntled left-wing Liberal Democrats, many so disillusioned that they are very unlikely to vote for Nick Clegg‘s party again.

‘About 75% of the converts – who have helped Miliband and Labour open an eight-point lead over the Tories in the poll – are former Lib Dems, 18% are ex-Tory supporters, and 7% are former supporters of other parties or people who did not vote in 2010.’

As always Miliband, rightly, remains cautious but optimistic. He believes we must build, among other things, a deep allegiance and he is right, and as he says there’s still lots of work to be done.