Saturday Sport v Politics

It is a Saturday. It must be sport for me. Throughout my life a Saturday has meant looking forward to some form of sport and the anticipation of kick-off. From a young lad playing rugby in the morning and football in the afternoon to just about struggling to make Birstall 2nds most weekends. It was the same throughout my time in politics and and as an MP. I think it is why I never fully fitted into the way politics is run. You see for political types Saturday is more canvassing time and political conferences. Don’t get me wrong I did all those things, it is just that like today when there is a big sporting day v a political day the sport usually wins!

Today for sport in Leicester it has been a big day. As most people know Leicester City have been rooted to the bottom of the Premier League for too long. It seems a long time ago that they beat Man Utd 5-3. Whilst we all were encouraged to #keepthefaith I am afraid I did start to doubt about a month ago. And then 3 wins on the bounce and today a six-pointer against Burnley. By now you know the result. 1-0 win to Leicester and we are out of the drop zone. Still there are 5 games to go and it could all go wrong but after this last month we would be stupid not to think it is possible.

As a Tigers fan I have always been disappointed at the football side not quite replicating our success, but this year Tigers have been pretty poor too. It will take a separate blog to outline all the reason, but once again like the Foxes it was still possible for Tigers to make the play-off top four if they kept winning. Today it was up against poor old London Welsh and Tigers were already talking about the bonus point before the game. They did it. They got the win and bonus point. I can’t see us doing that well even if we do progress to the final 4. 

All of this is a distraction from the main points from the election campaign today and illustrates the inability some days to ‘cut-through’. Some days you just have to hope the non sporting population (of which there are millions) are not shopping and paying some attention to the news. 

Given that there is lots of other real news and the election seems to have been going for ever it is no surprise that most of what I have seen has been about the earthquake in Nepal.

But politically I have been following the excellent polling and logs which as far as I can see give the most accurate and best appraisal of all the commentaries. In particular this one is worth a read.

This is how Ed Miliband get to 323 seats and becomes Prime Minister

The other news from the FT is the way Nick Clegg seems to have chosen to paint himself into the Blue corner again for post election discussions. 

Of course Nick Clegg is ostensibly a Tory anyway and this is where he feels most comfortable. But I suspect there will be many of his MPs and many in the Party who thought they were a left of centre party and the idea of propping up a Tory, UKIP, DUP coalition is far from ideal. There are some tactics being played here as many Lib Dems will be losing their seats to the Tories in the SW but in other parts of the country where they pretend to be leaning further to the left of Labour this announcement won’t have pleased them. Vote Lib Dem and get another Tory government isn’t a great sell in Leeds or Manchester where a couple of LD friends are defending slim majorities.

Finally as it is sport v politics I couldn’t help laugh at the sporting slip from Cameron – who seems to have forgotten he is a die hard Aston Villa fan, but telling everybody to back his ‘West Ham’ As Jonathan Ashworth wryly commented on twitter as the Foxes beat Burnley – perhaps being confused by the colour of the kit again & the PM will be crying at another loss for his beloved team.


Are elections won and lost by the leaflets hard working volunteers are delivering around the country during this election?

For the last few years I have been reading and studying marginal gains in sport as opposed to my old job of marginal gains in politics which has a completely different meaning! However, as the pile of leaflets requiring delivery started to build up and the sense of “how can this effort make a difference” started to kick in, I realised that in the tightest of contests you never know which bit of the campaign makes a vital difference to one or two crucial voters. Was it the TV debate, the leaflet, the telephone call or canvass from the candidate. Was it knocking them out on election day or calling to remind them to post their postal vote? I guess we will never know. We know overall that there is a differential turnout when people are contacted more often during a campaign, so its worth the effort. But unless somebody can show me some hard evidence I am not sure which bit of the this complex jigsaw of a campaign is the big winner!

Once again today I heard someone saying they hadn’t seen the ‘candidate on their doorstep’. Although I have blogged the maths on this before I will do so again in a separate post tied in with why campaigns are much more targeted these days.

Creating A Storm in a Teacup

Last week we looked at the ‘Dead cat on the Table’ strategy, but today we saw another amazing, yet depressing, spin job in operation as the Tories attacked a sensible Miliband speech on Foreign Policy. 

Even before the speech was given the spin operations were of course in place – they have to be to trail the story and gain interest from journalists to let them know it may be worth reporting and turning up! It is sad but now standard part of our news cycle.

The BBC Covered the story like this 

The Spin:

This is a story of what happens when it may have been overspun or journalists re-interpret the spin to get an opposition reaction to something that actually isn’t being said.

So as you can see from the reactions of the Tory Liz Truss and Nick Clegg is actually an over reaction to a point that is not even being made. 

But Conservative minister Liz Truss said Mr Miliband appeared to be suggesting that David Cameron was directly responsible for those deaths, which was “absolutely offensive”.
And Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said “political point-scoring” on the back of a “total human tragedy” was “pretty distasteful”.

There is enough wriggle room for Truss as she used the ‘appeared’ to be… which in reflection she could say, – “it appeared he had but in fact he didn’t” – at a later interview. But of course that later interview never takes place and the story is running that Miliband has accused Cameron for being directly responsible for the deaths in the Med over the last week when in fact nothing of the sort has been said. Indeed a very sensible point about the lack of planning for post war Libya is a valid foreign policy point to make – considering the one thing we ALL learned from Iraq was to plan for the aftermath. By allowing Libya to turn into a ‘Failed State’ we failed in our duty. But of course by attacking Miliband for what would look like a pretty horrible thing to say, nobody discusses the main point of the failure of the foreign policy.

It is days like today that politics and the Westminster political lobby really annoys me. It did as an MP when nuance and reasoned arguments never got a chance to be studied – always cut down to bite size controversy. 

To be fair to grab attention the spinners make this worse – but the whole façade relies heavily on the fact that 99.9% of people won’t watch or read the speech and about 95% of people who comment won’t either! To rectify that I am making sure I read every last word today and will link to the full text!

general election 2015

The Election is Over

Anybody who has received their postal vote will, like me, now feel the election is actually over. I have completed my postal vote for General Election and the Charnwood local elections. All of the effort the parties put into the next 2 weeks of campaigning will be wasted on me and the thousands more who have already made their choice.

This is important of course because it does mean there are effectively two separate campaigns that happen with the rise in postal vote numbers. As we know there is a great deal of emphasis put on ‘momentum’ and in the past this has been paced to coincide with activity ahead of the last week and the last push! Now there is no longer just one last push. In 1997 we even went around placing ‘purple’ vote Labour posters over the Vote Labour posters already up… just to give the sense of change, momentum and energy. But now this all too late. Getting the postal vote campaign right is just as important as the ‘main’ election. If you have a postal vote – be prepared for a call from a well organised ground war if you live in a marginal seat.

Sports talks



Every political commentator always rehashes the Clinton line that all elections are about one thing – ‘It’s the economy stupid’.

So in recent days the issues have drifted from the sublime to the ridiculous as we surely slipped ‘off grid’ for all the major parties. Today, with the publication of…

It’s The Economy Stupid

It’s The Economy Stupid

Every political commentator always rehashes the Clinton line that all elections are about one thing – ‘It’s the economy stupid’.

So in recent days the issues have drifted from the sublime to the ridiculous as we surely slipped ‘off grid’ for all the major parties. Today, with the publication of the IFS report was certainly always going to be about the economy and more specifically the deficit and austerity.

The IFS Report is here –

A helpful BBC guide to the main points is covered here on its election website –

As you can see the parties have tried their best but haven’t been specific enough to help you sit down and work through their budgets for the next 5 years. Indeed I would argue that has never been the case and a manifesto isn’t a detailed plan for the decisions a PM or Chancellor – or indeed any SoS are going to make for the for 5-10 years. Surely a manifesto is a broad appeal to the type of government and its intentions for the next 5 years. So what the IFS report confirms to me is quite simple. The Tories are fixated on reducing borrowing and even talking about a very small surplus by 2020. This is their ideological position not just an economic one. The same was true of the last five years. The Tories criticised Labour for only wanting to half the deficit in this parliament – even though that is al they achieved and at great economic and social cost. By fixating on the deficit the Tories created the slowest economic recovery in history. You see the deficit isn’t ‘the economy’ it is one part of our economic story. If we take the Tories spending plans as face value there is a lot of pain to come. If we add in the fact that they have also ‘promised’ another £23bn of spending which they have not accounted for that will have tome come from somewhere – more cuts? Increased taxes or as Andrew Neil said – the magic money tree.

It looks as though with the other major parties the tax and spend plans look similar. Yes there will be reductions in spending but not at the rates proposed by the Tories and the deficit would be reduced much more slowly.

I know most of the readers of this blog/guide are interested in finding their way through the spin and enjoying finding out what is really going on behind the headlines. well today the IFS have thankfully done my job for me.

The economic and public finances are examined and explained. So if it is all about the economy it would be easy from here wouldn’t it? You decide which model of the economy you prefer and you back it? Well of course not. What money is spent on and if your priorities and values are reflected by the Party of your choice that counts just as much. 

The economy is important as the basis for government but it’s not the size of the economy that matters – it’s what you do with it!