Let’s Party Like It’s 2015: Beestonia Channels Nostradamus.

Thank you to the responses, both online and in person, to the article I wrote recently about my little verbal scuffle with the Shadow Minister for Small Businesses, Toby Perkins MP, regarding the Tobin Tax. As such, I’d like to write a bit more to give some more clarity on the issue. Lots of other stuff is happening in Beeston, and I will be writing about them soon, but this one has been niggling me, so excuse me while I stretch this one out.

I vote, as I hope you do, not tribally but after a careful evaluation of the qualities of whatever politician is put in front of me. I hope in some way, this blog serves as an aid to that process. It was started up after a surprising failure to find such a thing on the Internet back in 2009, and I feel almost embarrassed to be inhabiting that role now. After four years of meeting politicians, the desire to see through the label and onto the individual has only been intensified. I have met some truly awful people from all over the political spectrum, as well as some absolutely faith-restoring individuals whose goodness shines through whatever colour prism it passes through.

So, to recap. I believe that the way to get us out of recession is complex, but relies on this: growth, fuelled by investment, funded/underwritten by tax. You don’t revive an ill man by draining off his blood.  As we have a situation in the UK right now that sees the gulf between rich and poor widening, and the power of wealthy establishments increase at the detriment of small businesses, there should be a serious look at the imposition of a Tobin Tax.

We’ll continue by giving it it’s populist and, I suppose, it’s localist nom de plume, The Robin Hood Tax. This levy is easy to impose, is a consistent and unavoidable income flow and is gaining popularity round the world: 11 countries on Europe alone are on the cusp of imposing it. It has such a tiny effect on financial institutions those harbingers of doom – and Toby Perkins MP came across as one of them- yet does so much to the nations coffers it’s hard to believe The City will reject it’s imposition: what better way to show some much needed – post 2008/PPI/LIBOR- contrition?

If Labour don’t run with this, then it’s doomed. If Cameron loses the next election and it’s not in the Labour manifesto, then it’s gone. The Tories will wait until Boris serves his tenure as London Mayor and bring him in as leader: and this is a man whose floppy blonde locks and buffonish nature disguise his virulent right-wing politics, where climate change is no more than a left-field hypothesis and the City is Camelot to the nation’s fortunes. Accuse me of being an alarmist, but I truly feel that we could be slipping speedily towards a Plutocracy: what hope if our only truly electable progressive party refuses to act as a brake to this slide?

You’ll get these arguments played out in the national press over time, especially as manifestos are formed (and the 2015 campaign, despite having the County and Euro elections preceding, is well underway within every local party office right now). Where does this issue sit locally?

Broxtowe’s erstwhile MP Nick Palmer commented on my last post that he was for a Tobin Tax, and was so in 2010. I checked my notes from attending hustings back then, and can confirm this to be true. It was at the Bramcote Hustings; which was possibly the most Tory-friendly of the three events I attended during that campaign. Rather interestingly, at the same event, Soubry confessed to being ignorant of the concept of this levy, which was hardly a fringe issue at the time. She promised, back then, to have a closer look at it: 31 months later and I’d be delighted to hear what side she comes down on.

Palmer’s willingness to support this tax is heartening, of course: as things stand he’s most likely to be our MP in 2015. That’s not partial optimism, it’s simple psephological fact. Soubry’s majority is the tenth most tenuous in the UK, and the swing required (less than a percent) to turn it back to Labour means it’s a simple win: a bit of back-of-an-envelope maths suggest to me that the Conservative party, under present polling data, would need a 15% swing in the polls within 24 months to put the contest into a 50-50 battle. The collapse of the Lib Dem vote nationally is also important here. I frequently hear from Labour activists that the Lib Dem PCC in 2010, David Watts, was disingenuous in the campaign as positing that it was a two-horse race, where he was one half of that future Findus lasagna: initially neck-and-neck with Palmer; post the Gillian Duffy bigot-gate gaffe, Soubry.

I make no apologies for thinking Watts strategy was valid: not admirable, but valid. Who goes into a campaign stating they are destined to lose? If Watts let in Soubry, well, so be it. David Mitchell, PPC for The Green Party, polled around the same votes for the Green Party that defined Soubry’s majority: do we blame him, therefore? Also, it seems very odd now, but Britain was gripped in what now seems a greater hysteria than the Salem Witch Trials, that of Cleggmania. Remember it? I imagine our deputy PM has a home where every surface in his bedroom plastered in that phrase, just to ensure he has some ignition to spark his getting up in the morning. As dull followers of political trends knew it was never to be, but to that first time voter; or to the fair-weather ballot-box attendee it might have seemed that a century of Tory/Labour hegemony could be usurped with  a vote to the yellows. Why shouldn’t have Watts ran a campaign using that as fuel? Labour fans may say that he let in Soubry as a result, but surely Watt’s remit is not to choose which party he loses to. Perhaps it’s worth considering that the overall outcome of the election put his party into power- albeit within coalition for the first time in any registers voters lifetime.

However, it’s not credible to believe that the Lib Dems can fight back from what is becoming a real existential threat electorally to a strong force within 25 months. Yet let’s not dismiss the effect of local popularity, and the Lib Dems have that in spades. I remember watching Watts, defending his position as Bramcote councillor at the 2011 locals, force his face into his hands as his count was totted up. The difference between a raw statitician and a psephologist came into play here: Watts overcame the Lib Dem national decline and held.

Watts is pugilistic when it comes to campaigning: the Lib Dems may have no real hope here, yet they’ll want to make an impression, as well as retain their deposit. Watts is presently the best man for this.

Soubry? I’ve long posited that she’ll look to vacate to Rushcliffe come selection. She has, admirably, got herself front-bench very swiftly, and despite the odd foot in mouth moment, is a bit of a Cameroonian darling: pro-Europe, hated by the 1922 Committee, socially liberal. Would the Tories-assuming the Cameron/Hunt/Gove cabal still keeps control-want to lose her in 2015? Clarke has not hinted at leaving, but he’s out of favour with the party, gaffe-prone and demoted. He is also 72. He’s ripe for the Lords. I still forecast a move across the Trent.

Palmer? Well, if, one postulates from the poll I ran recently then he’s a shoe-in. Yet receiving 70% of an online poll is not science, though maybe a tad indicative. The swing in 2010 to the Tories was much less in Broxtowe than elsewhere, and when you factor in the aforementioned  strong Lib Dem campaign it seems that Palmer’s personal presence saw that his unseating was by the shallowest of margins.

So surely a shoe-in as candidate? When we recently met I asked if he was up for it he gave an emphatic yes. Yet it’s quite possible that the local party may have an all-female list imposed. If this happens, and guessing that Palmer isn’t quite up for the necessary surgery, he is absolutely ruled out. I won’t get into a debate here about the pros and cons of all-female lists, no yet anyhow. But it would be a blow to Labour’s chances to regain the seat.

Their are also stirrings among the more Leftist elements in the party to back a candidate who is seen as less of a New Labour type. Palmer has, over time, moved to the left: his last term as MP saw him stronger against the whip and publicly regretting voting for the war in Iraq. Will this be enough though to prevent a more militant candidate? Watch this space.

10 thoughts on “Let’s Party Like It’s 2015: Beestonia Channels Nostradamus.

  1. Nick Palmer says:

    Thoughtful piece as usual! The LibDems at the count admitted that their actual target was 20% of the vote, so the “we’re gonna win” stuff seemed disingenuous, but disingenuity (is that a word?) of that kind is as old as party politics – my only comment at this stage is that anyone who believes it in 2015 is daft. There’s no reason not to vote LibDem if one merely wants to show support for Nick Clegg and his activities, but to influence the Broxtowe outcome in 2015 it really will be worth voting either Tory or Labour.

    My political career has had an unusual path, as in my teens I was a Communist – I liked the basic concept of “from each according to ability, to each according to need”, and I still think that’s the way to live your personal life. In practice Labour seemed the more practical option in Britain so I joined as a 21st birthday present to myself. In 1997, I was completely fed up with 18 years of Tory government and ready to cut Tony lots of slack, but I gradually realised that his agenda was much more focused on privatisation of public service provision than mine – in fact, if you read his memoirs, engaging though they are, it becomes clear that it was his central objective. I’m not signed up for that and think the process has gone too far, naturally spurred on by the current regime, but we need to acknowledge that the rot started with us. That doesn’t mean that we never use private help for public services – nobody wants the NHS to build its own beds and make its own computers – but the central service needs to be publicly provided. I’m not sure this is even an especially left-wing view any more. Are there many people who look at the regional private monopolies running the train system and think that this is a sensible way forward for the NHS?

    More generally, I’ve been using my period of enforced absence to think what I’d do differently if I did get back. I wouldn’t change the constituency work. I think we had a good, responsive service, which contrasts with the mysteriously leisurely service provided by the current MP and her team. (What on earth do they do with the letters while they sit on them for weeks?) But I’d like to look at every Bill on its merits without giving the benefit of all available doubt to Government proposals. I voted against the Government majority 36 times, which is 36 times more than my successor, but still not a lot in 13 years. I’d expect to be more awkward if I get back. I’d like in particular to get back on the Treasury Select Committee – not many MPs are really interested in economics, and as a traditional Keynesian it strikes me that the Government in 2015 is going to need every ounce of intelligent input to deal with the aftermath of five years of economic paralysis.

    But the priority is to get a change to shake off the deathly lethargy imposed by the Government’s policies, and there’s a more immediate way of doing that: voting Labour in the County election in May and ending the dismal period of rule by one of the most right-wing council leaderships in Britain. After that we can worry about who the General Election candidate should be. First things first!

  2. Michael Rich says:

    A fair representation of the Broxtowe political scene, no doubt about that, but I can see one shortcoming, the fact that you propagate the media generated myth that the LibDems are finished electorally because of the downfall of Clegg. This has not been reflected in the results of local by-elections and may not be reflected in the parliamentary by-election in Eastleigh. We’ll see.
    The LibDems have made more reasonable what would certainly otherwise have been an even more harsh and self serving government of the Tories alone and even in the case of tuition fees, the LIbDems facilitated the introduction of what anyone taking an objective look would consider a fairer scheme than that which preceded it. The scheme, largely the creation of Vince Cable, even appears to be working and bringing more students from the less privileged parts of society into further education.

    • beestonia says:

      I did try and nuance the Lib Dem effect to show the difference between Lib Dem nationally and locally; though for reasons of brevity I cut it back a bit.
      As I said, the LDs at the borough elections out-performed the national results, yet were wiped out in the City council vote.
      Lib Dems such as Watts and Carr work hard in their wards: this works. Similarly, Palmer’s constituency work was rigorous and inclusive: these things are noticed by the electorate.
      But to believe that the Lib Dems have a chance of taking Broxtowe in 2015 is fanciful. I expect Watts-if it is indeed him- to poll double figures, but only just. Maybe if Clegg was toppled and Tim Farron/ Cable took his job they’d bounce the vote a wee bit more, but not enough to push out of third place.
      Of course, there is lots of time before. If Soubry deserts to Rushcliffe and Palmer is rejected by the NEC and replaced with a parachuted candidate who fails to connect, the Lib Dems would be beaming.
      Broxtowe will be messy, and there is still many variables to resolve. However, Broxtowe Lib Dems would be better minded to focus attention and resources on what they do well here, and keep it local.

  3. Mavan says:

    Nick Palmer really does talk a lot of sense. How did we let this shambles of a woman get his job? We should all be ashamed of ourselves.

  4. stevebarber says:

    We need to be very careful not to be complacent about the 2015 election. Although in Beeston we have no Tory councillors it is 100% Tory in Chilwell, Toton and Nuthall. There are more Tory Councillors representing Broxtowe on both the Borough and County than any other party. Pre 1997 Broxtowe was rock solid Tory. Soubry has her followers and is getting a lot of press.

    Naturally I would suggest that you support Labour if you want to see a change of Government, both at County and Westminster level, but please get involved with whichever party you feel happiest with. Apathy always gives the Tories an advantage.

  5. Rollersnakes23 says:

    I will never vote for Nick Palmer again, since he gave the Beeston residents absolutely no support over the tram issue….. and even advised me to move house! Nice!

    • Nick Palmer says:

      Rollersnake, I didn’t oppose the tram as I think it will benefit the area in the long run, but you’ll remember that I did propose an alternative route to give more local access and less disruption. The tram inquiry was extended by three months because they took the proposal seriously. By contrast, the Conservatives postured throughout, suggesting that if they were elected the tram would be stopped. After getting in, they promptly reversed that, and by 2015 they will no doubt be claiming it as a rare example of Conservative investment!

      • stevebarber says:

        No need to wait ’till 2015. Anna Soubry has already claimed it as a success in question time. This after she asked the minister not to invest 500m in and around her constituency.

  6. hinnylass says:

    It doesn’t have to be in the Labour Manifesto to happen. The Government has done nothing but make policy on issues not mentioned (or mentioned but categorically on the contrary) in either of their manifestos since they got in. It’s all carte blanche these days.

  7. Twisted Lucidity says:

    The “opposition”? What opposition? Whether it’s Labour or Tory, they are both in the thrall of the same institutions and whether it little-touch (i.e. no-touch) regulation or wasting money on PFI; they are the same.

    I’d like to see a root and branch change of the tax system and one which should help local businesses. Have a read of this:
    “Fixing too big to fail” – http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/02/04/fixing-too-big-to-fail/

    I’ll agree quite happily that this will present a few problems, but it would in one fell swoop remove a lot of the sharp practices that larger companies engage in, allow smaller ones to pay less tax and with the (hopefully) increased revenue coming in; allow the tax rate in general to be lower/more invested/whatever.

    I, as a private person, get taxed on my gross income before costs (with only one or two minor exceptions – e.g. pension); why not the same for a companies?

    The cynic inside me says even if the above were brought in, the usual culprits would soon find a way to game the system and our MPs would not lift on finger to stop them.

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