Tag Archives: ealing-southall

Cunning stunt? Buy a calculator

A few days late on this one, but I have been meaning to follow up on this article about Grant Shapp’s cunning stunt over the Christmas holidays:

“Our plan would build more houses than the Government. But the way to do it is not to do it in a centrally planned way. That has always failed.

“The way to do it is to incentivise communities to want to build houses. It works by saying, ‘build these houses and you get a new town centre or other services like a hospital or school.’ The existing community gets the gain, not just those people who move there.

“If people knew that council tax receipts were kept for five or 10 years if they took houses and therefore council tax was lower, they would often be in favour. This way you are building up an array of benefits from being a Yimby, not a Nimby.”

No-one is disputing that if communities had incentives to develop, all things being equal they probably would. But perhaps Mr Shapps ought to buy himself a calculator if he intends to make this incentive reliant on council tax receipts. Because while only a fraction (a quarter to be precise) of local authority revenue is raised from council tax, new developments will continue to have net costs associated with them, not net benefits.

If the Tory policy is for council tax to shoulder a bigger burden of local tax revenue, it’s news to me, and I’m sure it will be news to the millions of people who are unlikely to welcome a massive tax hike to the tune of thousands of pounds. And it must be news to Caroline Spelman and Eric Pickles who have spent the past two-plus years denouncing any attempt of government to even contemplate revaluation by coming up with scare stories about taxing “nice views“.

If Shapps truly wants his dream of creating incentives for new build to become a reality, he’s going to have to be a bit more radical than that. It won’t happen without a significant tax shift onto land values. That isn’t something that David Cameron, Gideon Osborne and the other members of the Tufty Club behind the New Model Tories are likely to contemplate, no matter how many times Grant sleeps in a cardboard box.

Shapps of course must know this; he’s seen how Osborne has been inflated to the point of being hailed the new messiah by the Right for suggesting (modest) cuts in wealth taxes after all, which makes his stunt seem all the more hollow. Almost as hollow, in fact, as this claim:

Mr Shapps points out that the real losers were the Lib Dems whose second place was a foretaste of the disarray that eventually claimed their leader.

W-O-W – this is amazing stuff coming from the man who claimed he had proof that the Lib Dems were running a “poster lottery” (which has subsequently earned Iain Dale the immortal nickname Pravdale) and whose hands appeared to be caught stuck in the YouTube cookie jar. Cunning stunts indeed. Without wanting to revisit old battles, let’s just make one thing clear: just as the Lib Dem’s victory in Dunfermline and West Fife in 2006 had nothing to do with our lack of a leader at the time, winning Ealing Southall would have done nothing to save Menzies Campbell’s job. He would still have quit this autumn. For Shapps to claim that one of the greatest Tory fuckups of 2007 was in fact a bold act of regicide on his part is immodest even by his standards.

It’s nice to see him begin his political rehabilitation however. It is clear he has learned nothing, which suggests that we will have a second chance to have some more fun at the expense of this legend in his own lunchtime before too long.

My favourite Ealing Southall leaflet

Tony Lit leafletThis is my favourite leaflet from the campaign (click on it to enlarge). It was being delivered on the morning of polling day in particularly leafy part of Southall near the Grand Union Canal (for the record, I picked these two examples up from the street).

Why is it in so-bad-its-good territory? Well, the message on it will mean nothing to non-Hindus; indeed I would imagine it would put a lot of their backs up. What’s more, I would have thought that a lot of Hindus themselves would feel patronised, being effectively advised that it is their religious duty to vote for Tony Lit (and not the Hindu Vivendra Sharma).

If you’re going to mix religion, ethnicity and politics up in this way, why not go the whole hog and include a Hindi translation? I’m sure there must be one or two individuals out there who would be receptive to the message but don’t read English.

But for everyone else, how is this leaflet worth delivering on polling day? What does it tell them? There isn’t a tactical message, information about polling, a phone number to request lifts… anything. I could come up with 101 things that you would be better off getting your activists to do on polling day.

In fact there was a better leaflet being delivered just a few streets away. Overall, the impression one gets is that the Tory campaign team were caught with their trousers down on polling day and were just flailing about in a vain attempt to keep people busy. A less generous person than myself would say that just about sums up their whole campaign.

Return to Ealing Southall

I’ve sure everyone is heartily sick of the Ealing Southall by-election by now, but I thought I’d add a few final thoughts.

The Tories made a big play about how they were, to paraphrase one Iain Dale commenter, “parking their tank on the Lib Dems’ lawn”. Many of their leaflets did indeed ape our style (although as I said earlier, they were appallingly amateurish – in particular their version of “Talk of the Town” OK Magazine style literature), but they were still infused with Toryish notions about the candidate standing stiffly and self-importantly in every picture. I don’t think I saw a single photo of Tony Lit actually listening to someone talking in any of their literature. Of course such photos are always posed, but they send important subliminal messages about your candidate. Of course, if you come from a Conservative standpoint and see politics as a thing done by important men in suits rather than for ordinary people (it’s interesting to compare and contrast the photos posted on the Facebook groups for Conservative Future and Lib Dem Youth & Students: the former has portraits of Cameron, Hague, Osborne et all, the latter is full of pictures of LDYS campaigning, partying and doing lewd things to one another. Same age group, different planet), you will struggle desperately to get your head around such a concept.

That leads me onto the choice of Tony Lit himself. Why would you even consider a non-local candidate who wasn’t a party member, let alone impose him on the local party (I heard Caroline Spelman on Today yesterday saying that the ES campaign showed that Cameron was committed to localism – ha!)? But Tony Lit does rather conform to the ideal Cameroon candidate, not because he is minority ethnic, but because he is a dilletante. To be sure, he isn’t a top hatted toff like Boris Johnson or Zac Goldsmith, but he screamed money. Far from seeing this as a problem in an economically under-performing place like Southall (I should be careful here because I actually loved the place and have added it to my list of places I might consider moving to), the Tories tried selling him as a ‘local success story’. In doing so they blithely ignored the fact that his ‘success’ is rooted in his father’s money; but when have ‘meritocrats’ ever let the truth get in the way of a good story? Again, it boils down to a Toryish concept of the candidate as ‘hero’ as opposed to ‘public servant’ and one that I’m not convinced has much traction outside of the sort of cosy suburban areas that the Tories have retreated to over the past couple of decades. Far from modernisation and reaching outside of the Tory supporter base, Cameroonism is looking distinctly old fashioned and inward looking from where I’m sitting this morning.

Then there was the bad tempered nature of their campaign. I for one was taken by surprise by the sheer intensity of it. It started with Grant Shapps bizarre claims about ‘poster lotteries’ which he still hasn’t offered any evidence of and continued with a stream of threats to either sue their opponents or sic the police on them. In the event, only one campaign team are being investigated by the police: the Conservatives, for allegedly leaking the result of the postal vote count. The Grant Shapps/YouTube incident will live on forever as an example of quite how mad, bad and plain stupid the Conservatives can be.

But there was another, more subtle but in some ways even more lamentable aspect of this. In by-elections, tensions among party activists run high. There are regrettable incidents such as the Watson/Kemp addiction to using rentamobs to intimidate their rival candidates. But as a general rule you make a point of being polite to one another when you cross each other in the street or tell at a polling station. There is simply no need to make it personal.

The Tories I encountered in Ealing Southall however were something else. Without fail, if I crossed one of them in the street, they would sneer, mutter something rude under their breath or otherwise make it clear that I was wasting my time and the Lib Dems were about to be victorious. One Conservative woman was polite when she drove up to me on the eve of poll, but that was simply because she was trying to plug me for information (having just carefully taken the Lit posters off her window ten metres down the road).

In fact – confession time! – it was one particularly unpleasant incident outside the Conservative HQ in West Ealing that lead me to blogging about that Billy Taylor post on their Facebook group.

What is clear from these incidents, and from a cursory glance at the blogosphere is that the Conservative campaign team committed the ultimate sin of convincing their own activist base that they were on the cusp of victory. You don’t piss in your own backyard. The innocent little CF monkeys who were so arrogantly sneering at rival party activists in the street two weeks ago will have had their hearts broken. It was clear from the outset that the Tories weren’t getting activists in sufficient numbers, despite the hype. Next time, they’ll have to rely on Paul Seery to do everything (if he hasn’t defected to Labour by then). And that’s not to mention all the political journalists, such as Jonathan Isaby and Michael Crick who they were quite clearly telling fibs to. Campaign teams in backwater, moribund seats get this sort of electionitis all the time, but when your senior by-election task force gets carried away like this, you have a crisis on your hands. Just how badly do you think they’d have screwed up if it had been a General Election?

Finally, you have to ask serious questions about David Cameron’s judgement. I’m not just talking about his decision to put his personal credibility on the line, to the point of having his name on the ballot paper, but of his decision to dedicate so much party resources to a campaign that went nowhere. Let’s be quite clear about something: the Conservatives did play a decisive role in denying the Lib Dems another by-election win. The Tory campaign was effectively a spoiler, muddying the waters, confusing the media and enabling Labour to present it as a straight Labour-Tory fight. If they hadn’t gone for it in the same way, perhaps concentrated their resources in Sedgefield where they were second, the Lib Dems might just have been able to take the seat.

Of course, for people like the aforementioned Paul Seery, that is mission accomplished. But if Cameron thinks that, he should resign. Coming a poor third in Ealing would not have got them worse headlines than they received yesterday and today – indeed without the over hype, they wouldn’t now be getting spanked. But it would have damaged Brown and brought his honeymoon period to a crashing end. Instead, Brown’s bounce has been consolidated. From a strategic point of view, it has to be one of the worst political miscalculations ever.

It could be that the Tories genuinely believed they had a real chance of winning, but who managed to convince them of that? Nothing is certain in politics, but if you can’t guarantee with 100% certainty that you are going to come at least second, you should never campaign to win. I think I learnt that in Primary School. What do they teach those crazy kids at Eton?

There is a comparable pre-1997 example. In 1995, Labour took a strategic decision to challenge the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election, a Tory held seat where the Lib Dems were second. They ran a hard, even nasty campaign, that many Lib Dems still feel sore about. The Lib Dems won, but Labour significantly came second and went on to take the Oldham East and Saddleworth seat in 1997 (which they hold to this day). Peter Mandelson knew exactly what he was doing. Did Grant Shapps?

All this suggests that, for all the froth, Cameron doesn’t really have a clue what his anti-Brown strategy should be. He’s done a good job at making people sit up and pay attention to the Tories again, but he’s done a lousy job as changing hearts and minds within the Conservative Party itself. He surrounds himself with top hatted toffs and dilletantes, and calls it ‘diversity’. At the height of his popularity he nearly lost the Bromley by-election, while at the height of Gordon Brown’s popularity, he ends up humiliating himself when he didn’t need to. The money continues to flow in, some of it not from the clinically insane, but money can’t buy you activists in the North and other areas they need to win. And now we have a return to back to basics and posturing over Grammar Schools (sorry, ‘Grammar streaming‘), entirely at the behest of the very swivel eyed loons who have been keeping them in the political wilderness for the best part of two decades now. It isn’t looking good.

(and after all that, I failed to blog about my favourite Tory election leaflet of all time! Maybe later).

What a complete Lits up!

Fuck up Ealing SouthallNo time to blog at the mo, but in a rare act of cross-partisanship, I thought I’d make my new Ealing Southall button available to all. Subtlety is my middle name!

UPDATE: here’s the code if you want to add it to your page:

The Lab-Con Hokey Kokey

You put your right leg in, your right leg out, in, out, in, out, shake it all about

There is a serious side to all this. The degree by which the Tory and Labour camps in Ealing Southall are attempting to manipulate the Sikh and other communities is truly breathtaking. More to the point, I’m not sure it is all that effective. Throughout the 80s and 90s all parties, but particularly Labour, tended to treat minority ethnic groups as handy block votes that could easily be bought and sold by offering the so-called “community leaders” morsels such as a community centre here, a link with (read: money siphoned off to) a school in Kashmir there, etc. etc. It was the height of cynicism, but it generally worked and the minority ethnic communities themselves were the worse for it because they found themselves in a perpetual state of ghettoisation, with individuals emerging as major power brokers simply because the political class felt they were useful.

This has been slowly changing however. The Iraq War was a major corrective, at least as far as Muslims were concerned, but there have been broader generational shifts. Over the past couple of years there have been a growing number of initiatives designed to counteract this corporatist approach, such as the New Generation Network.

What I seem to be seeing in Ealing Southall is Labour coming a cropper of years of adopting the old approach. The Tories’ response however seems to be to walk into the same trap at precisely the time when it ceases to be useful. How impressed will Southall’s young second and third generation Sikhs be with all these shenanigans? Tony Lit started by trying to present himself as something new and fresh, but has spent the last week embracing the old guard. This tactic would surely be useful if the Sikh community was a homogenised block, but is that true?

More to the point, is the Sikh vote that important? In Southall, sure, but across the constituency they make up just 18% of the population. Are the Tories banking on the Hindus and Muslims (who, combined, make up another fifth) following in line with their turbaned neighbours? If so, then they are dafter than I thought. And what is the majority white population making of all this effervescent silliness that the Tories seem obsessed with?

We shall see, we shall see. But I can’t help but suspect that for all their noise, the Tories may end up in not that much stronger a position in the constituency after the election than they were before it. Either way, they will have a long term price to pay.

EXCLUSIVE: I’m confused about who is a Tory and who is Labour

Can someone sort this out for me. Earlier today, Pravdale was claiming that the Tories had claimed another Labour scalp in Ealing, but Comical Tommy is claiming this is balls. Yet Pravdale still hasn’t issued a correction – which in fairness to him he usually does do relatively promptly. Either way, this potentially explosive story doesn’t appear to have had the same impact as Shappgate, which is odd.

So who is telling the truth?

In some respects, this is entirely understandable. I can’t tell the difference between Tories and Labour at the best of times these days, yadda yadda yadda…

Pravdale calms the storm

Pravdale has intervened in Shappgate:

This all seemd a bit odd to me so I went to the horse’s mouth and have got a categoric denial that Grant did anything of the sort. It appears that he had a very easily guessable password on his Youtube account (it was 1234 !!!) and someone hacked into it.

Phew! That’s a relief! And – ha ha ha! – “1234”? Who’dathunkit? More sinisterly, a CCO spokesperson states:

We will be monitoring the account carefully and can’t rule out the activities of our opponents.

You see? It’s all a plot by the Lib Dems. That’s right – we’ve got a mole out there who is going around typing comments on blogs and YouTube (I would refer you again to the resemblance of GrantShapps’ comment and “Des Gray“) claiming we can’t win.*

In any case, it can’t be true that Pravdale and Tim Ireland have been in contact with Grant Shapps today as he is clearly too busy. I emailed him more than 24 hours ago about his activists admitting to stealing out of Ealing residents’ letterboxes and he hasn’t replied yet.

Simple question dear readers: does this explanation sound remotely credible?

Just assuming it is true though, would you trust a man who uses “1234” as his password with running an election campaign? For that matter, would you trust a man who uses “1234” as his password to tie his own shoelaces?

* Seriously, don’t you think the Tories would have got tired of making unfounded allegations by now?

Shappy happy videos on YouTube shocker

Strangely, Grant Shapps hasn’t replied to my email yesterday. Possibly this is because he is busy posting fake messages up on YouTube.

Spot the difference:

Okay, realistically we’re not going to win though. Especially since the Tories have just received 5 defecting Councillors from Labour. Don’t quite know how they’ve done it, but the Tories have stolen a march on us this time. (GrantShapps)

And they didn’t switch to us? Let’s admit it, guys, we’re not going to win this one (Sedgefield maybe?). This contest is, sadly, between Labour and Tony Lit (the Tory chap). It’s certainly put me off from going there. Who’s running our campaign? (“Des Gray“)

I thought Grant Shapps took a hard line against “dirty tricks”?

Meanwhile, and at the risk of sounding like a Childrens’ TV presenter, one of our viewers sent us this picture:
Mastercard advert