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Words about words

By Timothy Cox
May 5th, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Comments Off on Words about words | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats, Policy, UK Politics

Is the Clegg/Cameron friendship cooling off before it even got going? Well, certainly a neat analysis (from Millward Brown) of the language employed during the last leaders debate would seem to suggest that it might be.  Clegg and Cameron had the smallest pool of common words by some way- just 13, compared to 27 shared between DC and GB, and 20 between NC and GB (see chart).  Considering that almost a quarter of their shared terminology was unlikely to be complimentary (“Gordon”, “Brown” and “Labour”), and the only meaningful phrases they shared was “council” and city” (both issues upon which they disagree) they appeared to have very little in common to say at all.

I’m afraid it’s a little hard to make out, but hopefully you’ll get the picture!


Of course, this is hardly a litmus test for co-operation but is does provide some interesting insights. Take a look at their top twelve words used list: 

Brown                                        Cameron                        Clegg 

people  62                                   people  61                         people  53    

tax     56                                     government      37            tax     49    

cut     45                                     tax     33                            money   26    

bank    32                                   year    31                           work    26    

country 32                                work    28                           pay     25    

David   31                                  bank    25                           bank    24    

credit  29                                   country 23                        Cameron 16    

job     25                                     economy 22                      David   16    

Conservative    24                   business        17                 income  16    

year    23                                  cut     16                             Brown   14    

economy 21                             money   16                         Gordon  14    

work    21                                 waste   14                          problem 14    


Neither Cameron nor Gordon made reference to “Nick” or “Clegg” enough to make the list. Fence sitting before a hung parliament, perhaps? And while tax and people topped all the polls, work was a strangely low priority in GB’s vocab- possibly starting to regret that tax on jobs he’s stoutly defended for so long?

One final observation from the shared words chart: Clegg was the only man to breathe the word “Chancellor”. In 90mins of debate in which the economy was the focal point, neither Cameron nor Brown dared to mention what we’ve all been thinking. No-one wants another term of Darling after the mess we’ve been put through and Osborne looks green and unsure. During times of financial uncertainty the minister behind the finances need experience and nous- Vince has both in abundance. Increasingly he looks like the only man well suited to steering our economy and Brown and Cameron both know it. Funny that Brown didn’t remind us of his (oh so successful) tenure as Chancellor isn’t it?!

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Old New Labour unravels on a word

By Andy Mayer
April 29th, 2010 at 8:38 am | 4 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

pademoneyesIt was bad luck for Gordon Brown that an open-microphone gave the public an opportunity to hear what he actually thought of a voter. He isn’t the first politician to make this error, and he won’t be last, although the most famous example is fictional Tory Peter Mannion from In the Thick It who says:

“Peter Mannion: This is the trouble with the public, they’re fucking horrible!
Emma Messinger: Peter, you can’t say the public are fucking horrible.
Peter Mannion: Yes I can, I’ve met them.”

In one sense this story is a 48 hour wonder.

In another more serious sense it’s a painful insight into psychology of New Labour and why their time has gone.

New Labour in one sense is just the SDP just over a decade late. The political platforms of the SDP and New Labour were not very different and many of New Labour’s more successful policies were taken wholesale from the Liberal Democrats of the 1990s. Socialism as a credible political philosophy died in Britain the 1970s after successive decades of government waste and state control of industry proved unequal to the challenges of the oil crisis and global competition, ending in an IMF bail-out. It took Labour 20 years and four election defeats to accept defeat. It’s taking some European socialist parties a little longer.

In another sense New Labour was a political attitude, one born in shame of losing again in 1992. The election where Neil Kinnock “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory”. Labour campaigners I have spoken to about 1992 describe it as “the moment we realised the public were stupid”, “from then we knew we’d have to lie to win”, “we’d need to talk right to act left”.

What followed 1992, and the untimely death of John Smith in 1994, went beyond the militant-tendency purges of the late 1980s. It was a wholesale realignment of the party around a platform sold as economically liberal, but in substance corporatist, and one that reverted quickly to old-style socialist spending on the national credit card part-funded by stealth taxes. It was combined with some genuine socially liberal reform, undermined equally rapidly by an ever-expanding raft of authoritarian control measures designed to appeal to exactly the kind of voter Gordon Brown just called a “some kind of bigot”.

New Labour in that regard is a rag-bag of contradictions. Economically it is genuinely left-wing. Tax and spending has risen massively after 13 years of Brown. It was sold as “prudent” and “conservative” so well, that many disgruntled socialists genuinely believe they were sold out, whilst David Cameron circa-2006 felt he had no choice but to commit to Labour’s spending plans in order to restore his own party’s economic credibility. Gordon Brown’s confidence tricks should have Respect and their fellow travellers in the Green party cheering him to the rafters – he has even undermined the credibility of the City of London.

Socially it is an authoritarian agenda delivered by people who used to run Liberty, campaigned against apartheid, and hate the Daily Mail. It is a party that has opened the door to unprecedented levels of immigration whilst speaking the language of the BNP. It is a party elected to clean up politics that will be leaving office mired in a swamp of sleaze exposed by their own reforms. It is the party based on a philosophy that values equality over liberty, that has delivered reductions in both.

The Janus-faces of New Labour were bearable to a significant minority of the electorate when masked by Tony Blair, a man who could believe six impossible things before breakfast, sell four to the Chinese, and go to war on the other two. With the Incredible Sulk in charge however the polish fell off. Suddenly it wasn’t New Labour anymore; just Labour, and you always had the feeling that; support them or not, they didn’t like you very much.

Now Gordon Brown, in one off-hand remark, has confirmed it.

His reactions were awful at every level. He appeared fake when meeting Mrs. Duffy. His response to her uncomfortable immigration analysis was to blame his aides. When exposed on radio he didn’t fess up straight-away but make a conditional apology “if I’d said that”. He even said it again after he’d heard his own voice on tape. His announcement that his apology had been accepted, after half an hour of face time, is unconfirmed, and premised on an unconvincing analysis  that he didn’t mean what he said and had misunderstood her.

It was like watching an unstoppable lie collide with an immovable truth.

That is why, today, there is every possibility that a century of Labour’s membership of the political premiership is about to come to an end.

This is a party that believes in something but can’t talk about it for fear of causing offence. A party that wants human progress, but doesn’t believe humans are progressed enough to choose progressive opportunities for themselves. A party that has caused an economic meltdown and is led by a man whose leadership was only tolerated on the basis of his apparent economic genius. A party with no answers to any major question facing the electorate beyond their fear of change.

This is New Labour, and this is why the Party is over.

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Gordo the Saviour! Dave the Cowering! And more…

By Julian Harris
April 26th, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Comments Off on Gordo the Saviour! Dave the Cowering! And more… | Posted in UK Politics

I have some sympathy for Nick Robinson (bear with me now…)  He does, on some occasions, have to form his analysis of political events extremely quickly, and then promptly figure out how to articulate it in a snappy way to an audience with the collective attention span of a hairdresser’s goldfish.  I reckon I’d fail miserably at such a task, so just as well that I have the luxury of getting my points across on a blog, several days after the event.

Nonetheless, I am going to add another knife to those already inserted in his back, following his incorrect verdict that last week’s TV debate was encapsulated by “I disagree with Nick”. Statistics from the show, you see, reveal that Call Me Dave was, in fact, the most attacked leader (not Nick). Interestingly, Call Me Dave was also the meekest, perhaps in nervous, cowering mode, given the sudden possibility of him entering future history books and DVDs as the failed Tory leader who was forced into electoral reform.

The graph below shows how belligerent each of the leaders were:


Some more interesting findings come from examining the number of words uttered by each leader.  Clearly looking to appeal to the more nationalist element of the electorate, Gordo and Call Me Dave both had “country” in their top two words, with “Britain” being Gordo’s fifth most used word.  Notably, “country” only just scraped into Nick’s top 10 words, and neither he nor Call Me Dave had “Britain” in their top 10.

Gordo’s reputation as a self-styled wannabe global saviour is further enhanced by the analysis.  Out of the three leaders, he used the most language relating to international affairs, with the following words all appearing in his top 10: “Britain”, “country”, “world”, “Europe”, “European”.

The top 10 lists of words are below, with a couple of other graphics to keep you amused. This research, I must confess, was not done by myself, but rather done entirely by Millward Brown. Which is nice of ’em.


Shared Words: [sorry, can’t get this to be more visible. If you want a copy, e-mail admin *-AT-*]


All three leaders’ top words combined, by frequency:


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Aid spending targets are simply wrong

By Timothy Cox
April 22nd, 2010 at 6:27 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in Election, International Development, UK Politics

bono_brown_415Politicians generally disagree. Don’t be fooled by Brown’s recent nauseating sycophantism towards Clegg – in reality cross party consensus is very difficult to achieve. Banker-bashing aside, there are very few things that all three parties actually agree on and even fewer that they’d be prepared to admit.

But, there is one idea on which all three parties do agree on, and unfortunately it’s a shocker. All three parties have agreed in their manifestoes (Cons, Lab, Lib) to make it a legal obligation to spend 0.7% of national income upon foreign aid by 2013. This will cost an extra £2bn a year, according to the latest figures, and so nearly slipped under the election radar. However, thanks to The Times who picked up on report released today by International Policy Network, the stupidity of this proposal has now been exposed.

Now, before all the “pro-aiders” choke on their organic soup and reach for their recycled tissues, please wait. This isn’t an anti-aid rant. In fact the report doesn’t offer any recommendation on how much should be spent, but instead focuses on the stupidity of fixing aid spending to a specific target- any target.

It makes no sense whatsoever: Using input targets to determine spending is backwards. If a funding shortfall is the issue, it would be logical to look at how much money is needed rather than how much the UK can afford to give. As the The Times notes, “the oddity of deciding how much a poor country needs from the size of a rich one on the other side of the planet.”

What’s more, as the report comprehensively explains, the 0.7% target itself  was formulated as a lobbying tool almost half a century ago using now discredited methodology. The same method with today’s figures shows a capital “need” far below current UK spending on aid. And this highlights another problem with using targets- the developing world is always changing. Since this target was first proposed India and China have pulled half a billion people out of poverty, the economic landscape of the ex-Soviet republics has changed beyond recognition and Geldof has had at least one hair cut. Fixing aid spending denies the reality that people can, and do, pull themselves out of poverty and away from aid dependence.

Unfortunately it looks as though all three parties have neglected to scrutinise this particular lobbying tool, touted by that bellwether of bad ideas- Bono, and have blindly agreed to fix to an arbitrary target. At least one of them should know better.

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Cameron gets it wrong again

By Angela Harbutt
April 19th, 2010 at 2:41 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

I read on the BBC website this morning that David Cameron is stating that a vote for Nick Clegg could leave Britain “stuck” with Labour”.

Some one needs to take David Cameron to one side and give him a sharp talking to. Because he is just plain wrong.Wrong on sentiment.Wrong on tactics.

First and foremost the current poll of polls puts the Tories on 33% with Labour and Liberal Democrats on 29% each (and who knows where this will end). Yes, on the “just for fun” BBC Election Seat Calculator this gives the Labour 280+ seats and the Tories about 240+ seats. 


It’s a rough and ready estimate….But its clearly in the right ball park …at least for now…. And yes it looks like it would have to be coalition with the Liberals- no other group looks to have enough.

Now on the face of it, as things stand, this puts Labour looking pretty. But (and it is a big “but”) the Liberals are SERIOUS about political reform – and a change to the first past the post system….I don’t see how they CAN opt for coalition with the Labour Party with more seats (won through the defunct old system)- over the Tories with more votes. Surely we have been saying for years that it’s the votes that count? We are the party that has the demand for a fair, proportional voting system at the heart of its manifesto.

So, currently, and assuming Mr Cameron can get his act together, in hung parliament land, its gotta be the votes that count – and therefore highly probable that the Liberals would indeed be talking to the Tories about coalition.

But herein lies the problem. Mr Cameron shows no sign of getting his act together. Not on his own campaign – not on his relationship with the liberals.

At the moment the Tories seem all at sea. Private recriminations internally about why Cameron did so poorly on the TV debate last week; unleashing their pet newspapers on Nick and the Liberals (which will incidentally only drive more voters to the Libs – the more you knock us the more the public will flock to us – cheers guys!); and of course, yet more talk of the disaster of a hung parliament, despite the fact that it’s clear the majority of voters WANT a hung parliament (recent Times poll says 53% are FOR a hung parliament with only 37% against). Come on Mr Cameron – you can’t keep saying that you (and the city) know best and the common voters are stupid (which seems to be your message right now).

“We know best” just isn’t a very smart political line in an anti-political age.


And what of the Tory campaign? Throughout this election, indeed throughout Cameron’s leadership we have seen the Tories lurch back and forth in all directions.  From the “hug a hoodie” party to the “bang ’em up” party with seemingly no pause for breath. They claimed to be the party of harsh realistic spending cuts that needed to be implemented NOW,  a few weeks later they were handing out tax giveaways like Father Christmas on speed. “The Big Society” was their self-confessed big idea for the general election (even if many of us really don’t get what that really means). Yet in the TV debate, David Cameron did not mention it once. Nor did he mention the flagship education policy for “free schools”, (which will allow parents or other providers to set up their own schools) during the education part of the debate. And the lack of any numbers in their manifesto had everyone scratching their heads. You just don’t seem to be able to get a real fix on them.

And for a party of optimism and change all we seem to get are threats…first it was that a hung parliament will cause financial meltdown in the city and now a hung parliament will let Labour back in.. Did talk of a hung parliament cause the volcanic ash cloud too?

The Iraq war, the excesses of the political elite and their rich mates, the constant lecturing tone..they have dripped into our psyche. We have had enough. For most, Cameron looked like the only option to rid us of the dreadful Labour party- but Tory arguments have drifted all over the place. The electorate are not that stupid. Yes they wanted a change. But they wanted authenticity too. And that just never emerged with the Tories. And in marketing terms..


“Authenticity is the benchmark against which all brands are now judged”


In spite of this Cameron was the main man when there was no real competition. But competition has arrived. When millions saw Nick on TV on the leaders debate (for all his faults and the party’s faults), they saw something that is authentic and different. People get that.  Cameron really IS “Clegg-lite”.

So in the time that’s remaining, someone needs to tell Mr Cameron to “stick to the knitting”.  At the very least talk about policies and ideas and stop trying to badger and terrify us into voting Blue. It’s just not going to work.

As for Mr Cameron’s relationship with the liberals. What makes anyone think we would be willing to work with the Tories right now, even if they were first choice coalition partners?


All the Tory talk over recent weeks has been wholly anti-coalition and very definately against the kind of political reform that the Liberals are proposing. Any suggestion of change to the current voting system has been met with obstinate refusal. If David Cameron wants to be on the Government benches next month he may well need to rethink this, big time. Otherwise he might find himself spending a few short months on the opposition benches before the old Tory guard get their knives out.

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