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Reg. Charity No. 219279 Contents
Westminster politics asweknowit
8 | January 2012 | Total Politics
8 | 8 | 8 January 2012 | Total Politics
8 | January 2012 | Total Politics
The prospect of Sco ish independence is riddled with paradoxes and uncertainties. The great uncertainties include the timing of the Sco ish vote, what people will be asked to vote for and how they will exercise that vote. The paradoxes are many, including the notion that victory for the SNP could be very good news for the Conservative Party, at least in the short to medium term, despite the fact that Tory grassroots supporters (according to ConservativeHome) keep the union intact. It would also be a paradox if the coalition government pre-empted the SNP government and called its own referendum on independence, as has been suggested is under active consideration. Until recently it would have been unthinkable for the Conservative and unionist parties to have entertained such an idea.
I am not concerned here with arguing the pros and cons of Sco ish independence, but it is worth spending a few moments considering the impact of a ‘yes’ vote on the main Westminster political parties. These have long maintained support for the union while acknowledging Scotland’s right to self-determination. Much of the debate at grassroots level has so far been driven more by emotional or sentimental a achment to the union, or Sco ish national identity, than by political self-interest. That is entirely understandable, but, since the outcome of a referendum – especially one for the full-blown version – remains uncertain, the parties need to consider how wholeheartedly they should continue to assert their position of scepticism.
The results of polling to date show that a referendum on ‘independence-lite’ or ‘devo-max’ would be more likely to succeed than a vote that would overturn the last 300 years of constitutional unity in its entirety, and which would create a completely separate state akin to the Republic of Ireland.
Therein lies the problem with much of the polling evidence so far. Politicians seize on any poll outcome that tells them what they want to hear, yet most simply ask about ‘independence’ as an abstract concept devoid of detail. There are also concerns about forecasting other variables, such as turnout: for instance, the reported 53 per cent opposed to independence in November 2011 (for the Sco ish DailyMail) was predicated on the basis of all but two per cent saying they would cast a vote. Such a turnout level would be unprecedented: it is a near-certainty that a higher proportion of the sample was not even registered to vote.
Notwithstanding last May’s SNP election victory, most polls over the past two years have indicated that more people would vote against independence than would vote in favour of it. However, ‘devo-max’ would be a diﬀerent ke le of fish. Most referenda turn either on making the
Since the outcome of a referendum remains uncertain, the parties need to consider how wholeheartedly they should continue to assert their position of scepticism case for change (such as this May’s AV referendum) or on assuaging people’s fears. That is also, for instance, why an in/out referendum on EU membership would likely fail: voters dislike Britain’s relationship with the EU, but they are more fearful about the consequences of total withdrawal.
It is harder to assess the real outcome of a referendum without exploring all three options. Helpfully, this was done in a recent BBC poll that was heavily spun by all the major players involved. As the following table shows, it is as true to claim that just over one in four supports full independence as it is to say (as Alex Salmond, indeed, did) that more than six in ten back “real economic power for Scotland”.
Full independence 28%
S o u r c e:
B B C
P oliti c s
S h o w / T N S -
B M R B
O c t o b e r
On either independence model, a ‘yes’ vote would represent a dramatic new dawn in British politics, especially if Scotland were to raise and spend its own finances, since it would make it unthinkable for Sco ish MPs to remain in Westminster. In such a situation the immediate consequences would be devastating for Labour. Scotland returns 59 MPs to Westminster (reducing to 52 a er the 2013 boundary changes), of whom 41 are Labour. Without Scotland’s MPs in the 2010 Parliament, David Cameron would have won an overall majority of 42. An independent Scotland could make a Labour government in Westminster nigh-on impossible.
For the Conservatives, without the glue of competitive electoral politics it would be even harder to maintain unity. The Conservative Party is, of course, itself a coalition of interests, spanning One Nation and Thatcherite, eurosceptic and europhile, libertarian and authoritarian. The obvious result, even if not immediate, would probably be a split between right and le , perhaps with some UKIP supporters rejoining a right-leaning party taking in eurosceptics and Thatcherites.
This will, doubtless, also have significant implications for the Liberal Democrats, spanning as they do ideals from Orange Book to verging-on-Socialist. Again, the obvious outcome would either be for the Lib Dems to provide a home for ‘wet’ Tories, or for the Conservative Party to provide a home for those of the Lib Dems who could not join a rebranded Conservative Party, unless and until that party’s right wing has peeled oﬀ into a separate entity.
Between now and any referendum date, these skirmishes will continue hugely to influence politics in both Holyrood and Westminster. Labour faces the danger of being seen to side with Scotland’s deeply unpopular Conservatives – especially if they oppose ‘devo-max’ – which is quite possible if it entails removing Sco ish Labour MPs from Westminster. The Lib Dems are already tainted by association with the Tories, while the SNP government must define its mission beyond independence if it is to avoid becoming surplus to requirements a er the referendum.
Alex Salmond is, though, a very canny, adept politician. The bigger picture requires him to be careful about timing vis-à-vis economic recovery and the Westminster political agenda. It also means that other political priorities will need to be sacrificed. For instance, some suggest that if his party legalises same-sex marriage, that would lose twice the number of votes for independence that it will gain. But, if Salmond succeeds in achieving his life-long ambition, his legacy will be to have had a profound impact on politics throughout the whole of the United Kingdom – for my lifetime, and probably my children’s, too. ■ u Andrew Hawkins is chairman of ComRes
Turn to p22 to read David Torrance on the SNP’s campaigning success
In politics as in life, obfuscation is the vice of cowards. People who genuinely believe they command strong support for a given issue will demand a fair fight for a clear answer in the sincere belief that they can win.
So when one sees people angling for a multi-option referendum on a question they are publicly known to believe is an in/out issue, one can only suspect that they doubt the electorate.
This is true of the ‘Better Off Out’ Tory backbenchers who staged their European rebellion last month, and it is certainly true of the SNP.
The SNP want out of the union, and they are right to say that whether or not to leave the union is Scotland’s choice to make.
But devo-max is an entirely dif ferent proposition: it represents the de facto end of the United Kingdom as a concept and the British as a people, but with the retention of cosmetic touches like the flag and currency.
This half-way house serves two purposes. The first is to persuade doubting Scots who don’t want independence to vote for the next best thing. The second is to scare timid unionists, conditioned by more than a decade of defeat, into actually campaigning for this stay of execution as a damage-limitation exercise.
That won’t save the union. Scotland has the right to vote to leave, but if she wishes to remain within the UK she must negotiate her relationship with the rest of it. Unionists should make clear that regardless of what the SNP puts on the table, the options are independence or a continued measure of integration.
The UK is weakening because no unionists have had the guts to face down separatist salami tactics. On this issue, unionists must finally stand and fight or the Union is as good as over. ■ u Henry Hill is a UK Conservative blogger who writes at dilettante11.blogspot.com
Total Politics | January 2012 | 9
MoveMent for Change
Miliband for Change for the first time, Movement for Change opens its doors to the press. amber elliott is invited to view the inner workings of the labour organisation and meet its originator and champion, David Miliband. Photos by Christopher furlong
We’re sitting in the drafty backroom of a Lambeth pub, across the Thames from Westminster. Sixteen people listen while a woman expands on the content of a Powerpoint presentation. The wall-mounted projection shows a divided triangle. “What we want,” she says, indicating the different steps, “is to create more of a journey up the pyramid and try to establish relationships.” Some take notes, others nod.
Despite appearances, this isn’t some underground meeting for a pyramid scheme. This is Movement for Change, and for the first time, the organisation has opened its doors to a journalist.
If you’re not familiar with M4C (the catchy shorthand for Movement for Change), it’s the self-described “home for community organising within the Labour Party”, formed as part of David Miliband’s leadership campaign. The Lambeth meeting is an introductory session for Labour members, and the format fits somewhere between a corporate training day and group therapy.
There are even ground rules. “There’s a safe, friendly environment,” says one of the organisers. “We’re hoping that this is an active evening, so chip in. And we will have you all up on your feet.” Later, the group explores “relational connections” with bits of string and conducts a “mapping exercise” to identify social networks that already exist in the room.
Its unconventional methods might explain why some have dubbed it “Movement for Strange”, but maybe they are on to something. By the end of the session, the attendees have set up ambitious ‘action points’, and even the most sceptical attendee remarks how “positive” he feels.
This is not your average Labour Party meeting.
28 | January 2012 | Total Politics
It’s very important that we’re a movement, not just a machine. When we’re a machine, we lose. We’ve got to become a movement again if we want to win. And I
want us to win
It all began with David Miliband’s bid to be leader last year. And although that didn’t work out, he stuck with the project, becoming an M4C trustee. From his parliamentary office, Miliband explains: “It’s two-thirds Labour history, one-third American community organising.”
From the global stage as foreign secretary to a hyper-local community organising force: it must be quite a step-change. “It’s definitely a journey,” Miliband admits, “definitely a change, but a very welcome one. I’ve spent 20 years working in government for the people. This is about government by the people. That’s very refreshing, very enhancing.”
Although he does not sit on the Labour frontbench, Miliband has found influence through M4C. “It gave me an important outlet for my passion for electing Labour Party governments, given that I wasn’t going to be in the shadow cabinet,” he explains. “It was a good way for fulfilling my passion to make the Labour Party a relevant, powerful, electable organisation that lived up to the best of its potential. But if you’re suggesting that it’s providing me with a family I didn’t have, then no.”
Although not familial, some suggested that Miliband’s attachment to M4C could be blamed for his failed leadership bid. In Rowenna Davis’ book Tangled up in Blue: Blue Labour and the
Total Politics | January 2012 | 29
IAIN DAle IN CONVERSATION...
For three years, Nick Robinson has topped the Total Politics Political Journalists Poll so it was about time we interviewed him. He’s a broadcaster at the top of his game, but one who is never afraid to admit his mistakes or make an off the cuff prediction, even if a few minutes later it turns out to be spectacularly wrong. In short, he rarely sits on the fence, which is refreshing for a broadcaster who by definition has to tread the tightrope of impartiality.
You’ve been doing the job for six years. How different is it now compared to when you started as political editor? At one level, the job is different because the politics is fundamentally different. When I began, after the election of 2005, our focus was on the inevitable transition between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Political coverage was seen through the prism of the TB-GBs rather than that of the opposition, although Cameron was emerging as a pretty effective opposition leader then.
Now we’re in coalition politics. We’re in an economic crisis. We’re in a situation where Parliament matters more. I’m more regularly reporting parliamentary votes and select committees. Undoubtedly, Parliament has become more significant, for a number of reasons, but changes in rules that mean you’ve got the backbench business committee, and that e-petitions can be discussed, create more topical debates. These are not of the government’s choosing, or at a time of the government’s choosing, but are generally of interest to our audience. Parliament is beginning to debate the things that anger, upset, inspire our audience. And the select committees are gradually building their power. We always knew, ever since the select committee system was created in 1979, that there was a chance it would become like the American hearings. A number of committees – home affairs, Treasury, culture, media and sport – have discovered that they can be the place where bankers, the Murdoch empire, government cock-ups, border issues can be put under scrutiny. Another big change in the six years you’ve been doing the job is the way the media operates. There’s so much more importance ascribed to the internet. Individuals can have a bit more of a voice. How has the internet changed the way you do your job? The curious thing is that I was a very early adopter of blogging. The guy who inspired me – a guy
32 | January 2012 | Total Politics
Fi s k / B B C
Total Politics | January 2012 | 33
Regulars Letters 5 Diary 6 Times sketchwriter Ann Treneman Polling 8 Andrew Hawkins on the future of the union Blogger writes 9 The idea 10 Sunder Katwala on good and bad immigration The insider 11 George Pascoe-Watson on the challenges facing the PM in 2012 Debate 12 Do all-women shortlists work? Former MP Jacqui Smith and Charlotte Vere disagree Point of order 13 Lisa Nandy MP Events 14 The dissenter 16 Dan Hodges on Ed Miliband’s bid for control of Labour HQ Data 17 Ministerial profile 18 Greg Barker MP MP of the month 20 Esther McVey MP
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Features Movement for Change 28 Amber Elliott goes behind the scenes of the grassroots movement that aims to rebuild the Labour Party from the bottom up, and meets its originator and champion, David Miliband In conversation with Nick Robinson 32 The BBC political editor talks to Iain Dale about his perch at the top of the journalism tree and relives the moment he compared Peter Mandelson to manure Energy focus 46 Caroline Crampton interviews Charles Hendry MP about the energy challenges the UK faces, Caroline Flint MP deconstructs the government’s policy on feed-in tariffs and Mark Spencer MP makes the case for better energy security
Cover Story PAGE 38 The 25 club
Total Campaigns A winning formula 22 David Torrance on the strategy behind the SNP’s 2011 election coup Why so negative? 24 Dane Strother hails the new efficiency of negative campaigning Online and on target 25 When running a campaign, social media should be your best friend Drinks with... 26 Dylan Sharpe
Holly Smith talks to members of the 1987 intake of MPs, and finds out how Westminster has changed in the quarter of a century they’ve been at the heart of political life special section A business breakthrough on growth 54 Santander and Total Politics explore how small businesses with ambition for growth can become the star enterprises of the future
Total History Mental Health Provision Act 62 David Stark on Britain’s twentiethcentury encounter with eugenics Debates from the vault 64 The Commons exchange that led to the creation of the NHS The history of one object 65 The Death Warrant of King Charles I Memorabilia 65 Philip Davies MP They were also MPs 66 William Cobbett
Total Life End of year reading list 68 Keith Simpson on everything political you should have read in 2011 Brought to book 69 Kenneth Gibson MSP My old book 69 Peter Black AM The Iron Lady 70 Ben Duckworth reviews Meryl Streep’s stellar performance as Mrs T Researchers’ stories 71 Hinterland 72 Nigel Evans MP Top 10 PMs under the weather 73 Lunch with...74 Gavin Williamson MP
Total Politics | January 2012 | 3