Saturday, 17 August 2013

Weekly Political Digest – 16 August 2013

Although I started compiling this on the stated date, other matters have unavoidably intervened, so it wasn't completed until Saturday evening...


Ed and Shoulders

It has been a terrible time for Labour party leader Ed[ward] Miliband, who is now back with us. As commentators all over have been saying, his shadow cabinet members haven't exactly been helpful and forthcoming during his absence, and now some of them – along with a few backbenchers – are metaphorically bumping him with their shoulders (it's the best visual metaphor I thought would fit what is going on).

Most notably, shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has 'warned' the party leader regarding their policies or lack thereof. The move has been seen by at least shrewd observer as having possibly been motivated by a sense of self-preservation by Burnham, fearing demotion out of the shadow cabinet in the much-rumoured upcoming third reshuffle under Mili-E.

There have been others, faithfully documented as they happened in Guido's Miliband category of posts. This also includes Ed-M's egging at an outdoor public appearance (resulting in a whole host of jokes, and the creation of the delightful term Omniscrambles), while elsewhere his personal popularity rating received another blow when it was revealed that it looks as though more than six in ten people just don't like him. Here's Ipsos MORI's pie chart, courtesy of Mike Smithson, showing how this figure is made up.

Finally on Ed[ward], the Spectator's James Forsyth confirms the reason I mentioned a week or two ago for the Labour leader's silence during these past several weeks, that he was concentrating on getting ready for the party conference. James tends to be correct on matters such as these (and many others) so perhaps we need to give the benighted one a bit of leeway on this occasion...


Bryant's Immigration Shambles

Labour's Chris Bryant, the shadow immigration secretary, made such a disastrous job of an interview earlier this week, in which he was tackled on the content of a speech that incorrectly criticised two major UK employers (Next and Tesco), that he has probably jeopardised his position, and I'd expect him to be either demoted or moved sideways to another  subject area in the above-mentioned reshuffle, if it does indeed happen.

The interview on BBC-4's Today programme can be heard here, along with comment from the Speccie's David Blackburn. Matthew Holehouse at the Telegraph has highlighted the key differences between the original and hurriedly re-written Bryant speech; further comment of note is at ConHome.

The revised version of the speech can be read here; and it's still not exactly a good one in the areas where it has been 'corrected'.

Here's FullFact's point-by-point analysis of the Bryant speech. Although, reading through it thoroughly, one can't help get the feeling of a particular slant here and there – which is not uncommon at this site – but there's some useful information in this fact-check nonetheless. So, read with caution, but do check it out if you are interested in the detail it presents.


Unite4Len

That is how Len McCluskey's Twitter account is designated. Note that it is 'Unite for Len', not 'Len for Unite'. This looks like a Freudian slip that tells us which of them is the servant and whose is the real agenda that the union is intended (expected?) to pursue...


Rail Fare Rises

The latest developments on this perennial (almost weekly, in fact!) topic is that here in Chatham local Labour folk have been doing what I and others were doing just a few years ago: handing out leaflets to commuters. The difference is that, back then, rail fares had been shooting up hugely under the Labour government of the time (around ten percent in each of two consecutive years, in fact: I have the precise figures on file) and the general rule was for a so-called 'RPI + 3%' rise here in the south-east.

Labour are now protesting that it has been brought down to RPI + 1%, as former Gillingham MP and one-time transport minister Paul Clark acknowledges in this fairly short radio interview. Although he tries hard, he does stumble here and there, and it is quite to see where the truth is getting blurred.. At least he admits that a future Labour government would 'probably' keep the RPI + 1 formula that has been introduced by the Coalition Government.

He certainly has trouble with the question of railway funding and makes the usual mistake of equating money in to results out. He also refers at one point to the level of 'subsidy' – not the total amounts being invested.  As always with Labour, if it isn't coming from the public purse, it doesn't count...

I am also not aware of any increase or reduction in the figures regarding accidents and fatalities, nor even such delays as those caused by signal failures – and I am decades-long enthusiast, user and observer of our railways, especially here and the up and (to a lesser extent) down routes. Listening attentively, one picks up on one of the standard Labour lines "totally unacceptable", said no fewer than three times by Mr Clark in these few minutes.

Overall, there's a lot of 'spin', but it's quite easy to see through much, most or (by the really perceptive) all of it, and it certainly disagrees with the leaflets that Labour have been handing out to commuters this week...


The Future

These weekly digests have been very popular (well, relative to other posts here, both now and when I was a full-on political blogger), so it looks like the format is here to stay. I shall keep it under review, though, rather than assume this is 'the answer' for all time.

With that, I think this is enough for the week: it doesn't always have to cover a lot of topics, although sometimes that is necessary or at least desirable. This week I have left out some less useful material on nurses, A-levels (despite the results having come out this past week) and some material that could fit just as sensibly into this week's Sunday Slot – so those last ones I am keeping bookmarked until then..

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