Smith Square Review – 22 January 2016

22 January 2016, News

A Laboured report

This week has seen the release of Dame Margaret Beckett’s report into Labour’s failures at the 2015 election. It won’t come as a great surprise to hear that the veteran MP for Derby South has come to the conclusion that the British people did not view Ed Miliband as “strong enough leader.”

However, the report is not quite as scathing of Miliband’s leadership tenure as many anticipated.  Indeed, Beckett makes the point that the public’s perception of the former Labour leader was tainted very early on in the election campaign by his portrayal in the British media.  Instead, Beckett looks elsewhere to identify the root causes of Labour’s significant shortcomings in 2015.

The report suggests that Labour’s failure to discredit the “myth that they caused the 2008 financial crash” played a major role in their inability to win votes.  Beckett also flagged a lack of voter “connection”, particularly over issues relating to immigration and benefits.

It seems, then, that for the next election Labour will need a leader who is credible on the economy. Jeremy Corbyn has got his work cut out…

Goldman’s Sach of Gold

On Thursday it was reported that Goldman Sachs, the high-profile US investment bank, donated a six figure sum (supposedly in the region of £500,000) to Britain Stronger in Europe – the lead campaign for the UK to stay a member of the European Union.

Vote Leave, one of a number of campaigns trying to get recognition as the official Brexit group, has reported on the news with glee. “Banks that crashed the economy are bankrolling IN campaign” reads an article on their website. Arron Banks, the founder of the other out campaign Leave.eu, posted on Twitter: “No surprise to those of us who have said all along EU referendum will be a campaign of British people against the establishment of international bankers, multinational corporate tax dodgers and out-of-touch politicians.

This fodder for the Brexiteers hasn’t put other banks off, with JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America all rumoured to be planning to donate six figure sums of their own.

YouGov? More like YouMug

This week, a panel of polling experts published some explanations for YouGov’s infamous election night miscalculations.
As political anoraks waited on the results in May 2015, nobody expected such a result. Although polls are famed for their inaccuracy, the cavernous disparity between predictions and results was quite remarkable.

Like a game of Chinese whispers in the playground, the polls had spread rumours of an SNP and Labour hung parliament. But how could they get it so wrong?

An interim report by the panel of academics and statisticians suggested that selecting participants based on their voting intentions had resulted in “systematic over-representation of Labour voters and under-representation of Conservative voters“.

In humble fashion, YouGov have vowed to improve their methods to avoid more results day shocks. In the meantime, however, it might be prudent to avoid the polls when making predictions for this summer’s local elections.

Trump: Hell toupee in the Commons

This week saw the most unlikely of characters at the centre of a three-hour House of Commons debate: Donald Trump. The debate was sparked by a petition that gained 570,000 signatures, following Mr Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

A variety of opinions were displayed. Though Jack Dromey MP warned that Trump would fuel extremism if he came to the UK, most MPs argued that the ban would be disproportionate and counter-productive. Such sentiments were echoed by the Home Office minister James Brokenshire MP, who said that “[w]here there are clear differences of opinion, the most effective way to influence our American partners is through a frank and open exchange of views, in taking on those arguments.”

There was no direct action as a result of the debate; authority to ban someone from the country rests with the Home Secretary, not with Parliament. Thus, many have criticised the debate as a waste of MPs’ time, with Paul Flynn MP in his opening speech saying that they “may already be in error in giving [Trump] far too much attention.”

Trump is yet to respond himself to the debate. We expect that his attention is focussed on over-combing the other Republican candidates (or his hair).

Ones to watch

– On Tuesday 26 January Peter Dowd MP will be leading a debate in Westminster Hall on levels of child poverty.

– On Thursday 28 January Lord Shipley will be leading a debate in the House of Lords on the future of local democracy in the UK

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