Monday, June 26, 2006

The BGE 2005 - Part II: Communication let me down

The Tory campaign was contradictory. How were voters meant to identify with a party that wanted more tax but tax cuts, attacked yet supported the Iraq war, wanted enterprise but not those with that enterprise to move to the UK, and whose thought leadership in schools and hospitals extended to longer detention and cleaning? Old Tory winners were ignored, eg only the modern Tory party could hide its opposition to the Euro at the precise moment when ithis policy was being vindicated. The Tories biggest impact will be to get the LibDems to drop the idea of a local income tax, but this was more Sun led than CCHQ led. One of the most fascinating tit-bits reported is Michael Howard’s rejection of a big idea, when the campaign cried out for a unifying theme to base the campaign around, just like the 1970 and 1979 campaigns focussed on giving individuals the right to run their lives instead of the government seeking to do so. The Conservatives were identified as the party that people were most unaware of what it stood for, when the chamaeleonic Lib Dems are regarded as more purposeful then something’s gone wrong big-time.

Not only were voters confused, there was a lack of Conservatives to talk to them. In my experience too many in CCHQ, where I was on secondment during the election, regarded canvassing as a waste of time. Sorry guys but there’s not been the business invented yet that’s too good to talk to its customers. One Tory MP in safe-seat did no telephone canvassing. The recognition of the handwritten posters was high, which is good until you question how effective those posters were, not least as they cannot be targeted in marginals due to rules on expenses. In London the “Its not racist to impose limits on immigration” ended up in seats with high voting immigrant communities, which put the idea in people’s minds that the party was racist.

On the upside the campaign leaflets were good and a definite improvement since 2001. Yet the party has failed to move with the times. Labour used mobile phones to knock-up voters on election day, the Tories used knocking. Note also John O’Farrell’s amusing weekly eMails to chivvy up Labour supporters and got them knocking on doors, and if you responded as I did, they followed up. It certainly beat the bland eMails from CCHQ saying come to GENEVA. The recent trip to Washington to learn about internet campaigning is very welcome, but its also 2 years too late. The power of excellent websites can be shown in the differential between the Cameron website and the other websites in the leadership campaign. Certain candidates developed their own websites, and more importantly eMail communication. Witness Andrew Griffith in Corby who in 2 elections has reduced the Labour majority from 8,000 to below 1,800 with above national average swings, and whose communications included a weekly eMail on his activities send to a very wide audience. The party should consider expanding and enabling all candidates to do this for the next election. It also bypasses the local press who can be institutionally favourable to the incumbent.

The TV broadcasts were a mixed bag, the worst was the Shadow Cabinet’s espousal of Howard’s virtues which reinforced the view that the Tories had only 1 man, whilst like the TV series “The Office” made the population wonder if the unknowns before them were real people or actors.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Review of the British General Election 2005 - Part I


Assessment of the “The British General Election of 2005” by Dennis Kavanagh and David Butler

During the Christmas period I picked up a copy of “The British General Election of 2005” by Dennis Kavanagh and David Butler. Written in an objective manner, it does not seek to make judgements, yet piece together its piercing analysis, and its clear that the Conservative Party screwed up the 2005 campaign through poor organisation and bad strategy. Here's what it inspired me to write



Campaigning in the 21st century

During the London hustings for Tory leader, the candidates were asked what they would do to improve the party’s organisation. DC’s response was that he had the support of 115 MPs, which is a great answer… to a different question. The killer quote in the Study must be:

“The Conservative Party certainly concentrated on too broad a front of seats; mass targeting was a contradiction in terms”.

Despite losing 2 general elections by a landslide the Conservative party still could not get back to electoral basics. In a first past-the-post system concentrating the team marginals is crucial. I remember being in CCHQ during the election and one shadow cabinet minister taking umbrage at my suggestion that their majority could be reduced, in order to put more effort into a marginal. The 2 big swings in London came in the 2 seats injected with large numbers of Tory CCHQ staff on the day of the election. (Putney and Battersea). Other London marginals like Finchley and Golders Green suffered on election day from a total lack of resource from safe and loser seats, whilst Labour packed the place. The Conservative party must play as team, otherwise its simply handing the more coherent Labour an unnecessary advantage.

The Party has 120 full-time agents, yet these are often in safe seats and are often recent graduates. This point was made by Peter Walker in a 2003 Conservative History Group discussion, who compared them to the elder and more experienced agents of the post-war period. Rather than concentrating on a Gold or A list of candidates, the party could better train and develop an A list of Agents for marginal seats and to let the higher membership in safe seats to look after themselves.

The Study credits Labour with preparing well for the street battle long before the campaign, even when the New Labour aristocrats were having their customary spats. Labour presented its MPs as local champions. For example in Finchley and Golders Green their campaign literature stressed that Rudi Vis MP was a hard working local resident, which any survey of his attendance at the House indicates that only the latter part is true, but they got away with it. The Lib Dems were smart, focussing not just on seats with slim majorities but taking into account voters with a high propensity to change to Lib Dems, eg Asians and students due to the war and tuition fees, and made gains in consequence. Such tactical nous was missing from the Tory campaign. Much is made of the inbuilt bias towards Labour in the current electoral system but read this Study with a critical mind, and you have to question whether its bias against us or our own incompetence and lack of teamwork that generates this distortion.

Part II of this essay will follow later this week....

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Lib Dems and tax - only a 173% rate makes their numbers work!


The LibDems new tax policies weren't even worked out on the back of a fag packet, unless it was the type of fag packet that got dropped on Oaten.

To be fair, they ain't all bad. Taking 2 million people out of the tax net, and reducing the basic rate to 20p are very worthwhile measures, they should have been in the Tories 2005 General Election Manifesto . Unfortunately, but less than coincidentally the LibDems subscribe to the Cameroonian illogic that tax cuts mean less tax revenues. Remember the Aussies have cut income taxes 4 times since 2000, yet raised more revenues every single year, and kept the budget in surplus.

Taking 2 million people out of the charge to tax might go some way to dealing with the nearly 4 million of people Labour have brought into the tax net. Although, by my reckoning, the LibDems would take at least a million people out of the tax net by making them unemployed when exercising their longheld but all too conveniently forgotten policy of joining the fixed exchange rate mechanism called the Euro.

As for the remainder of the policies - can anyone in the LibDems use a calculator....

The LibDems say they will raise an extra £13bn from capital gains tax on 2nd homes and shares on the rich? Yet Capital gains tax did not even raise £3bn last year despite a soaring stock market. And that includes all gains, not just investing in UK business and making more rental accomodation available. For higher rate taxpayers the current tax rates on assets on which the LibDems wish to increase the tax charge already range from 24% to 40%. To raise £13bn the Lib Dems would need to increase the rates to 104% - 173%. Capital gains tax receipts are also highly volatile, so this is a taxrise that would bring about economic instability.

£7bn will be raised by taxing planes on emissions when they take off, and increasing Vehicle Excise Duty on car. There are already 2 taxes that discourage car use, being VAT and Fuel Duty, both of which you pay more of, the more fuel you consume. What the Lib Dems really want to do is implement illiberal measures to stop you choosing what car you own - in which case they should say so. There's 32.3 million licenced motor vehicles in the UK, so this proposal means up to a £217 average increase in Vehicle Excise Duty per vehicle. Therefore, for anyone earning less than £10,835 above the threshold for income tax but owning a car, ie poorer workers, they will actually be worse off under the LibDems total measures.


Where do these new ideas come from. Well, the Lib Dem Tax Commission has been in progress since last summer and per the LibDems website....

"The group will in general make recommendations on the direction of tax reform rather than being expected to produce a full schedule of tax rates, thresholds and exemptions"

What's the point of having a year long commission if all it will do is recommend directions - does it really take even the LibDems more than a year to realise that UK taxes are too complex, too high and often unfair. Precise thresholds might be a bit much, but rates are pretty fundamental and its a poor study that won't recommend what level of rates it favours. And if there were no recommendations on rates, then howcome Ming has announced cutting the key one by 2%?

Reformed alcoholic to make unlikely comeback

Gazza thought that he'd attempted some bizarre comebacks, but he's only just heard the rumours of Charles Kennedy's return to parkbench politics

Monday, June 19, 2006

What a good mayoral candidate should be saying


Another mayoral election and the Norris bandwagon chugs into gear. Yet twice before Shagger couldn't get it up and campaigned so poorly its amazing that he's not on the A list. Steve had few policies and made no effort to attack Livingstone for either his long record of extremism or for the paucity of his administration.

What policies should a right-wing mayoral candidate have? Here's a few suggestions:

1. "Broken windows" policy on crime
2. Campaign to reduce the corporate tax rate for London business and increase the income tax basic rate and higher rate thresholds for Londoners. Reduce the income tax rates for Londoners, especially the 40% rate
3. Replace the Greater London, and preferably the Borough, proportion of Council tax with a local sales tax
4. Sensible licencing hours - ie no 11 pm or midnight closure. Do what the great party cities do and let bars open as long as there's a party to be had.
5. Cancel the 2012 Olympics, failing that make only the Boroughs with Olympic infrastructure pay for it
6. The Firemans strike showed that the Brigade had considerable inefficiencies, so privatisation should be on the agenda
7. Sell-off the tube - the whole shebang and not the way the Major administration boot-faired the railways
8. Reform London's marriage laws, make pre-nuptial contracts legally binding, and full gay marriage for those who choose in London - none of this "civil partnership" nonsense
9. Decriminalise prostitution
10. Welcome immigration, immigrants are so vital to London's economic health

11. Decriminalise drug-taking and drug-supply - it should reduce crime (see earlier post) and end the monopoly of criminals over narcotics
12. Ban Coldplay, liberatianism should only go so far

13. Just to annoy the lefties - bring back fox-hunting especially on Primrose Hill and Upper Street

But most importantly never waste an opportunity to expose Livingstone for what he really is

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Open all hours?



The TaxCutter has recently experienced stag evenings in both Hamburg and the UK. And you have to conclude that the continent can party better than the UK because its allowed too - especially past the daftly early 11pm closing time! The Reeperbahn was full of small clubs and bars with a great, friendly atmosphere. Denmark and Spain are also great to venture out in.

What's the consequence of this absence of government-imposed boundaries on partying. I reckon that they include:
  • More power to the consumer. Each week thousands in the UK get ripped off by nightclubs charging an entrance fee to listen to 2nd rate music and get overpriced for drinks. Overseas there's few if any entrance charges, often there's not even a basic meathead on the door because the supply of venues is greater and more varied
  • less drink-related crime, punch-ups vandalism - everyone can go out having had a good feed first + drink at leisure. Plus people trickle home which is easier to police
  • Greater variety and more small venues - less compliance normally means reducing the entrance threshold into the market, and hence bolstering competition
  • A better time!
Strangely enough but when you treat responsibile adults as responsible adults they tend to act like responsible adults. The current licensing laws are a joke, being a relic of WW1 albeit with slight improvements in the 80s. The ability to turn UK cities into better party places would alsobring in more tourists ..... and their cash.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Seen it before?







One of the leading right-wing bloggers has redesigned their blog. And very good it looks too.
However, I think you might have seen the pose before

The death of Charles Haughey

Maybe it was me, but this obviously crooked man, always seemed a bit smug after any IRA atrocity

Sunday, June 11, 2006

New Labour White Elephants I: Stakeholder Pensions


There's been a lot of fuss recently about the Pensions Package agreed between Brown and Blair. But has the Tory party let the Chancellor off one of his great errors - the Stakeholder Pension fiasco - the Millenium Dome of the financial world?



Labour have been in power 9 years, and their best effort on Pension Savings is to introduce measures that will take effect in 2012, 15 years after they abolished the dividend Tax Credit for pension funds. Not only that, the additional cost of postponing long-needed changes won't increase Gordon's budget deficit - already 3.4% of GDP - but will be picked up by future governments.*

Why the delay? Well the Turner Report and current reforms are effectively admitting that just like Family Tax Credits, one of Brown's flagship policies, Stakeholder Pensions, totally bombed. These were introduced in 2001 Gordon Brown as the solution to the Pensions crisis.

Did Gordon decide that the market would best determine the optimal way for workers and providers to create long-term savings. Of course not, instead Stakeholder Pensions were to be very standardised, and to have such low charges that no-one reckoned they could make money out of providing them. So, they didn't. Now 5 years on, stakeholder pensions still don't even get £1bn of employer contributions per year, less than 20% of the damage done, per year, by the abolition of the dividend tax credit. Bog-standard ordinary personal pension plans still get over 3 timest the amount of employer contributions. (Source: HMRC website) The link to the DWP Stakeholder Pensions website doesn't even work, it just takes you to the DWP homepage instead. And who are the stakeholder pensioners? Good question - its not the low to medium earners they were aimed at but spouses of rich businesspeople happy to use an unintended taxbreak.

The result of Stakeholder Pensions has been more complexity, more changes, more confusion, less long-term savings- and a vital delay in curing a structural flaw in the UK economy. Stakeholder Pensions are classic Gordon Brown - concerned that pension providers might profit from selling pensions he designed a system so they wouldn't - and cut-off pension savings to spite UK business in consequence.

*(By contrast, the tax-cutting but fiscally stable and budget-surplus rich Australian government is already putting money aside.)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Useful idea in The Economist shock

I got a big surprise last weekend when I read The New Labour Apologist, I meant The Economist. In a rare return to classical liberal thinking , it suggested the decriminalisation of cocaine in the USA, as a way of enabling Columbia to deal better with its drug barons by denying them the monopoly money the current illegal status guarantees them (ie making cocaine illegal in the US forces the price up and hence means more money for those criminal gangs who supply the product).

And why not decriminalise drugs. My concern is that the current criminal status is responsible for increasing crime. Decriminalisation would actually reduce crime. Why? Police and Crown Prosecution friends reliably inform me that 90% of crime is drug related, ie criminals commit crimes to fund their addictions, classically in the UK heroin, in the US its more likely to be crack-cocaine.

Typically addicts commit crimes because of their need for a hit and not an enjoyment of law-breaking per se. Hence they steal, rob etc to fund that hit. Criminalisation increases the price of drugs, as you would expect when you limit competition between suppliers by banning everyone reputable. Hence, junkies have to commit more £ of crime to get their fix from the cartel of supplires. Increasing supply avenues, by decrimalising drugs should increase competition, meaning lower priced drugs and hence meaning less £ of crime are needed for that fix.

It should also mean cleaner, better drugs and most importantly of all, it might remove some of the restrictions and stigma that currently deter junkies from seeking the help they need.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ever feel you've been cheated?




Just a selection of those who supported David Cameron for Tory party leader, enticed by his promise to leave the EPP.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Top 100 - what an A list should look like

The Top 100 of PPCs who did not become MPs is shown below. Please scroll down to see the important caveats on these admittedly crude stats. Scroll further down the blog if you wish to win a bottle of champagne in my A list competition.

Headlines:

  • Only 15 A listers feature in the Top 100.
  • The Top 100 contains 23 females. 17 of these did not make the A list. This indicates that David Cameron's protestation that the current A list is needed to ensure that there are more women Tory MP's is spin. There are plenty of good female candidates who were ignored when the A list was compiled.
  • The average performance for a losing PPC was a loss of Conservative votes of -1.86%. For A listers it was -4.01%, and for all Conservative Candidates it was 2.21%.
  • 158 losing PPCs beat the national average, less than 1/6th of whom made the A list.
  • Only 2 PPCs with an Asian name got into the Top 100. 19 PPCs with Asian names were in the bottom 100 of PPCs. Many of these candidates did stand in inner-cities where the party performed poorly but the clear indication is that enlisting able Asians into the party should be made an urgent priority.
  • When compiling this list it became clear that regional swings meant little, many of the better results are from areas outside the South East.
  • Some of those below have already been selected for the next election, rightly so based on their performance

RESULTS ( A listers in red) . Top 100 as measured by increase in the Tory vote as a percentage of votes cast. As compiled by the TaxCutter

Dr Norma Lloyd-Nesling 86.67%
David Branch 64.47%
Stuart Cottis 59.68%
Mark Garnier 50.26%
Duncan McLellan 46.21%
Adrian Phillips 44.21%
Phillip Howells 34.65%
Annunziata Rees-Mogg 34.21%
Michael White 33.97%

David Potts 32.00%
Stephen Watson 28.07%
John Lamont 26.87%
Mark Jones 26.78%

Rob Halfon 25.02%
Mark Coote 24.75%
Roger Berry 23.61%
Harri Lloyd Davies 22.11%
Paul Stuart-Smith 21.74%
Mark Bowen 21.07%
Sean Moore 20.34%
Rishi Saha 19.84%
Henry Smith 19.31%
Stella Kyriazis 18.61%
Amanda Vigar 18.56%
Carolyn Abbot 18.55%
Mark Nicholson 18.03%
Sandy Bushby 18.00%
Dr William Morgan 17.98%
Guto Bebb 17.72%
Ginny Scrope 17.19%
Kevin Davis 17.02%
Owen Inskip 16.55%
Caroline Dinenage 16.49%
Andrew Griffith 16.43%

Brandon Lewis 16.31%
Piers Wauchope 15.85%
Sian Dawson 15.81%
Jonathan Morgan 15.51%
James Bethell 14.39%
David Ashton 14.29%
Gordon Henderson 13.97%
Myles Hogg 13.40%
Virginia Taylor 13.38%
Keith Chapman 13.04%
James McGrigor 12.98%
Justin Tomlinson 12.76%
Peter Duncan 12.74%
Julien Foster 12.69%
Bob Blackman 12.63%
Mark Pawsey 12.39%
Anne McIntosh MP 12.33%
Damian Hinds 12.18%
George Freeman 11.99%
Robert Oliver 11.94%
Margot James 11.83%
Michael McIntyre 11.34%
Philip Allott 11.31%
Paul Offer 11.18%
Marco Longhi 10.93%
Jonathan Gough 10.71%
Stephen Daughton 10.61%
Jeremy Bradshaw 10.41%
Nicola Talbot 10.19%
Howard Morton 10.18%
Tim Archer 10.10%
Tim Butcher 10.04%
Mark Formosa 9.76%
Mark Reckless 9.68%
Dominic Schofield 9.59%
Ken Andrew 9.51%
Garry Hague 9.40%
Andrew Griffiths 8.82%
David Morris 8.53%
Gabrielle Howatson 8.33%
Syed Kamall MEP 8.28%
Jonathan Mackie 8.24%
Edward Heckels 8.21%
Robert Buckland 8.14%
Colin Cromarty Bloom 8.06%
Melanie McLean 8.03%
Graham Evans 7.98%
Conor Burns 7.95%
Tom Biggins 7.93%
Judith Pattinson 7.77%
Maggie Throup 7.54%
Esther McVey 7.26%
Mike Mitchelson 7.02%
Eveleigh Moore-Dutton 6.89%
Spencer Drury 6.85%
Aaron Powell 6.80%
Leah Fraser 6.79%
Alun Cairns 6.57%
David Chambers 6.56%
Les Jones 6.40%
Diana Coad 6.38%
Alf Doran 6.25%
Suzy Davies 6.20%
Nicola Le Page 6.19%

Any questions, queries etc then please eMail me at taxcutter@tiscali.co.uk

Notes

The performance of 428 PPCs was examined.


There is a 3.33% reduction when comparing those who stood in 2001 as well as 2005 to cope with the fact that the Tory share of the vote increased more in 2001 than in 2005.

Caveats

These statistics are produced by comparing 2005 performance to 2001. For those who stood in 2001 and 2005 the comparison is to 1997 but with adjustments made for the national swing.
These are only meant to be a crude guide and I fully admit that they are imperfect numbers. On the otherhand I do not know of any better ones produced, but would be delighted to know about them. I do not know whether CCHQ produced similar statistics when compiling the A list. I suspect they did not, despite the obvious wisdom of doing so.

These statistics have not been adjusted so do not add or subtract for other factors such as Funds, party members in the constituency, work done in neighbouring marginals, time selected before the election, whether this was one of the 100 or so seats the LibDem bothered showing up in, whether there was a UKIP/Veritas candidate etc

Usual caveats to these statistics apply, please see below. 26 PPCs in Scotland could not be taken into account as they stood in seats that had had boundary changes, hence measuring their performance by comparison to results in previous General Elections was not possible without examining the results on a ward by ward basis; which I have not done.

Complaints Commission for the Independent Police Complaints Commission

No such body exists. But the TaxCutter would like to know who I complain to about the fact that the IPCC wasted a valuable 6 hours of police time following Friday's raid on a potential bomb development site in East London. If there's potentially an UXChemicalB out there then frankly the IPCC can wait until the incident has been dealt with by the professionals.

But then competence is the last thing you expect from the Home Office

Friday, June 02, 2006

A List - you're having a laugh

On Sunday evening I'll publish who my research says should have been on the A list. Without giving the game away too much, it shows the following:

  • There's many women, not on the A list, who did better than female A listers - so the "we need more women MPs" excuse for the A list's final composition is about as accurate as tax cuts being contrary to fiscal stability
  • Regional swings are overstated. Many northern candidates put in strong performances
  • Inner-cities tended to produce the worst results. Bradford for example was especially poor
  • No great difference between male and female candidates. However, candidates with Asian names generally performed poorly, but possibly because they were more likely to be fighting inner-city seats. Does this say more about the candidates or the electorate?

Due to boundary changes, I have not been able to produce reliable figures for many Scottish seats.

The TaxCutter looks forward to CCHQ telling him the basis they used to analyse 2001 and 2005 General Election results when picking the A list candidates. Surely they must have had some objective measurement for the key target seats.......

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A list interlude - Tax cuts and economic stability


Whilst being very sensible on tax simplification, Boy George got tangled up again on the economic stability versus tax cuts myth.

Ireland, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and soon Canada will all take less of their citizen's dosh than the UK. Ireland, Australia and Canada have all cut taxes in recent years. The result in each case was actually an increase in economic stability as they record budget surplus after budget surplus. Following the Bush tax cuts the US would have achieved the same if only it had not gorged itself on a belly full of pork.

Compare this to the UK, a deficit of 3.4% this year, or indeed Italy, France and Germany - who are meant to be in a Fiscal Stability pact following EU membership, but have struggled to make the numbers add up for years.

Just like his comments about there being no tax cuts in the 1979 winning manifesto, George should check his facts better. And remind his big mate Dave about that EPP promise

What's your favourite A list interview story?


I have decided to award a prize for the person who tells the best tale from an A list interview, their's or someone else's. The prize will be a bottle of fine champagne, or similar luxury good for teetotallers, bought of course from my favourite UK business, Tescos.

Here's an example of what you have to beat.

A story has come to light of a potential A lister (who scores well in ratings I've yet to publish) who was interviewed by Anne Milton MP and a volunteer.

In an interview, devoid of any question on the candidates experience as a PPC or of how they would seek to campaign in a key marginal, the question of pension policy arose. The candidate gave the perfectly reasonable answer that the deal with the public sector where they can all officially give up work at 60 would have to be renegotiated to restore fairness between the private and public sectors. And its not a million miles from what the very able Shadow Pensions Secretary Philip Hammond has been saying.

Nursie Milton apparently went into one, about how that was a ridiculous idea. The candidate was rejected.