Be a Tory strategist for the day

As a non-candidate I don’t have to be judicious and positive all the time. So just for fun, here is my take on the shambolic Conservative choice of attack lines this week:

1. Argue the case over pensioners. No, it’s not a threat to your home, well, no more of a threat than we already have, oh you didn’t know? Well, it’s like this, pay attention. And anyway we’ve suddenly decided we’ll have a cap, and we’ll publish details after you’ve voted. There will be fine print, like not having a cap if you’re not ill but just frail, but we’ve not written it yet so can’t tell you what the fine print says. And the Winter Fuel Allowance shouldn’t go to millionaires, unless they’re Scottish millionaires, in which case we’ll have an exemption as we’re worried about the SNP. And the change to the double lock will save a lot of money, but actually won’t affect you because inflation is going over 2.5% anyway.

2. Change the subject to the IRA. 40 years ago, Corbyn may or maybe not have been previously on the editorial board of a magazine that you’ve never heard of which had a contributor who liked the IRA, OK so Corbyn wasn’t on the board then but anyway, he met Sinn Fein people even before the Queen did and that shows he was a terrorist sympathiser, and this election isn’t about Brexit and it isn’t about what we’ll do, it’s about stopping Corbyn, that’s why we called it three years early, see?

3. Change the subject to Brexit. That’s what the election is about, dammit. Stop trying to talk about other stuff, like our manifesto. We shall insist on something, though we can’t exactly say what, and we’ll be firm and fierce just like 52% of you, and we may agree to pay megabillions but we reserve the right to put your taxes up to pay for it, and no, we won’t say how much.

Anyway, vote Conservative because we’re strong and stable like you’ve seen this week and we have a positive message and aren’t negative like Labour with their better NHS funding and more low-cost housing and protection for schools and abolition of student fees, who needs that stuff?

What’s our positive message, you say? We’re working on it. We’ll let you know after the election.
Good luck, guys!


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A bit of inspiration

Spend two minutes hearing Corbyn at a music festival – I defy you not to feel a little bit inspired. Then contrast it with Theresa May’s timid campaign, speaking to small groups of invited supporters.

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A fair package or a dementia tax?

Hi all,

I’d like to analyse the issues on age and social care.

First, though, for those who are like me supporting Greg Marshall’s campaign. If you don’t have time to go out canvassing and leafleting, there are two simple things you can do:

  1. Have a garden stake or poster. The Conservatives have some very well-funded ones – the gargantuan one on Town Street wouldn’t get planning permission if normal rules applied! – and it’s very important to get a good spread of posters for Greg. If you’re happy to do this, please drop him a line, just with your name and address and whether you want a garden stake (and if it’s OK to set it up if you’re not at home when the helper calls) or a window poster. His email address is:
  1. Donate to the campaign. As usual, the Conservatives have a lopsided spending advantage and only personal donations traditionally enable us to level the playing field. To donate, please transfer to Broxtowe Labour Constituency bank account : Sort Code: 08-90-74 A/C No: 58020100 or send a cheque payable to Broxtowe CLP to Dawn Elliott, 27 Redland Drive, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 5JZ

Despite all the coverage of the proposals on social care, I’m finding that lots of people are confused about what is actually proposed by the Conservatives. There will be two main effects

First, the fuel allowance will become means-tested. In principle this seems fair – why should a millionaire get a fuel allowance? But there’s a reason why it’s not, specifically for older people. It will inevitably mean that lots of pensioners who are entitled to it won’t claim, either because they’re too embarrassed to say “I’m poor so I need the allowance” (even in our grasping society there are a lot of people like that) or because they don’t feel up to filling out the relevant forms. (We’ve seen exactly the same with free school meals for the poor.) When you stop making an allowance universal and make people fill out forms to get it, you penalise people who are either not pushy or no longer very capable. There’s also the more subtle point that when you take the allowance away from most people they tend to lose sympathy for giving it to anyone.

Second, the care proposals effectively help people moving into a care home (by allowing them to retain up to £100K instead of £23K) and punish people who stay in their own home and get care there (because they will now not be eligible for help if they own a house worth over £100K). The second group is far larger than the first – most of us will need a bit oi help when we get on, but only 1 in 6 will go into care – so the effect will be to nudge people into care homes – which is stupid, because it’s both nicer and FAR cheaper to be looked after in your own home. Because this is a large group, the net effect will be to save money – but at the expense of the vulnerable.

As in most cases now, people won’t need to sell their homes (both arrangements with the council and equity release plans can usually prevent that already), but they will be forced into debt, paid off through their estates.

The common factor here is a familiar one from when I was Broxtowe’s MP. The welfare net can work quite well if you really understand every wrinkle of the system and have an inexhaustible willingness to fill out forms, go to interviews and jump through hoops. People like me and many of you have little problem in this (nor, ironically do the small minority who rip the system off) – if I suddenly needed help tomorrow, I’d know exactly what to do. But people in trouble are often any or all of

  • desperate
  • ill-informed
  • not very computer-literate or
  • bad at putting their case in an interview.

The very elderly, in particular, often have really serious difficulty, especially if they are in mental decline (which is why critics are calling it a dementia tax).

The Government called the election ostensibly about Brexit. But they’re using it to seek a mandate for traditional Conservative preoccupations (from more school selection to bringing fox-hunting back). They aren’t bothering to say how they’ll pay for their programme, apart from warning that they may put your tax and NI up. They want a huge majority with a blank cheque. On June 8, you can help decide if they get it.

Best wishes




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The Labour manifesto

…is here:

I’ll leave you to decide for yourself and compare with the Tory manifesto on Thursday, but do read it. It’s the kind of programme that made me join Labour, and a breath of fresh air in our stale political climate. If you vote for it, regardless of the overall outcom you’re voting for genuine renewal in Bitish politics.

And that’s not before time.


Best wishes



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A safe foreign policy: outsourcing war decisions to Donald Trump?

Hi all,

One of the themes today is defence and the broader theme of national safety. This is an area where it’s thought that Theresa May has a substantial advantage over Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed, you may already feel that. But politics is partly about challenging established belief, so I’ve a little challenge for you. Will you suspend any disbelief for five minutes and let me test you?

The facts here are pretty well-established. Corbyn, as he’s saying in a speech today, is not a pacifist, but he’s extremely cautious about engaging in military intervention unless all other options have been exhausted. He opposed the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and opposes us getting involved in the Syrian civil war. I supported the first two and have come to see I was mistaken (I apologised for the mistake when I stood last time). Where there’s a clear-cut case, as in World War II, Corbyn supports military action.

What is new is Theresa May’s policy. There has been remarkably little discussion of it so far, but in a speech explicitly authorised by Mrs May, Boris Johnson has announced that if Donald Trump decided to attack Syria, our Government would find it “extremely difficult” not to join in. What’s more, it would not be necessary to consult Parliament. See the BBC report here:

This is entirely different to any previous British Government policy, Conservative or Labour. It outsources the decision on whether we go to war. The decision is now not a matter for Parliament, or even for the British Government. It is a matter for President Trump. This takes the “special relationship” to the ridiculous stage. It’s fine to have a good friend. But whether we get into a war should be a matter for us.

If Mr Trump was noted for his caution and thoughtful judgment, this might not in practice mean very much. But I don’t think his best friends would argue that. Indeed, it seems to me more than likely that he will launch a war against someone. Syria? North Korea? Cuba? We really don’t know. But if he does, we should, precisely as Corbyn argues, be “extremely cautious” before getting involved.

Is Mrs May cautious (or strong and stable, as she keeps saying) in this respect? Not at all: indeed she has said that she doesn’t rule out first use of nuclear weapons. Let’s assume that Mr Trump decides that a nuclear strike is needed to take out the deeply-embedded North Korean nuclear development facility, and asks us to join in. Do we really want to agree without even debating it, just because he asks?

The thing about military intervention, as I came to realise over Iraq, is that it’s very easy, and indeed popular in instant polls, to start a war, but extraordinarily difficult to finish it – especially if, as in Syria, there are multiple factions and we don’t fully understand what they’re all about. I share the disgust at the horrors in Syria. I think it’s right to be extremely concerned about North Korea. But before we sign up for any more wars, let’s be careful.

But does Britain not have a duty to act, as a proud former Empire with interests across the globe? This rings a patriotic chord in many. But actually, no. We don’t have a duty to support one faction in Syria and kill supporters of another faction. We are a medium-sized European country in some economic difficulty, facing a complex and challenging outlook. Getting into another civil conflict in the Middle East should not be a priority. And doing it merely because Mr Trump says we should is not a sign of patriotism. It is a sign of weakness.

In cosmetic ways, there’s no doubt that Mrs May fits the image of a patriotic Prime Minister. It’s easy to imagine her enjoying afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace, where one suspects Mr Corbyn would be polite but privately wishing he was on his allotment. It’s easy to imagine Mrs May singing Land of Hope and Glory, difficult to conceive of Mr Corbyn doing so, though I know him personally and he loves the quiet decency of the British people and our democratic traditions.

But these are serious, dangerous times. Patriotism should mean more than symbolism: it should mean keeping Britain safe. And I feel far safer with a prospective Prime Minister who is reluctant to get us into war than one who goes out of her way to give notice of precisely that intention.

Sometimes war is necessary: I come from a military family and I yield to nobody in respect for the Armed Forces. But it should not be undertaken lightly, or at the behest of Mr Trump. A dignified, restrained, independent foreign policy that puts peaceful solutions first and retains our freedom of action is better. And that is what Mr Corbyn is asking you to support.

We have got used to intervening all over the globe and getting into one mess after another. Mrs May’s policy will accelerate that. It is neither strong nor stable, and despite all the imagery that you’ll be bombarded with in Conservative leaflets, we will in reality be safer with a cautious leader like Mr Corbyn. If that sounds a surprising conclusion, it’s because we are used to martial posturing. This is a dangerous world, and we need to adjust to it.

I’ll leave it to you to consider!

Best wishes



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