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Lodestone Communications
Lodestone celebrates Living Wage Accreditation Anniversary This week – Living Wage Week – Lodestone is celebrating its accreditation anniversary and our continued ethical commitment to paying the real London Living Wage for the real cost of living. We value our people and we are proud to be part of the Living Wage movement as an accredited Living Wage Employer. This means that every member of staff in our organisation earns not just the minimum wage but the real Living Wage, including anyone enrolled in the Lodestone Internship Programme. The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually, based on the cost of living in the UK. As an ethical and responsible employer, we believe that every member of staff deserves a Living Wage, because a day’s work deserves a fair day’s… Read Article >  When the deal goes down What – actually – is austerity? Or maybe, what was austerity? That is the question upon which the political success of this budget will hinge. The Prime Minister has promised us, after all, that ‘Austerity is over’. Fiscal Phil – who went to school with TV’s Richard Madeley and shares his slightly awkward but tiggerish style of delivery – reassured voters that ‘thanks to their hard work’ austerity was ‘coming to an end’. But listening to the actual content of his budget one wondered what Philip Hammond actually thinks austerity means and whether it has very much in common with what the PM thinks it means, or voters for that matter. Certainly, if austerity meant achieving George Osborne’s ambitions for a balanced budget then it is over. Once… Read Article > Lodestone scoops three nominations at PRCA Public Affairs Awards 2018 Lodestone Communications is delighted to announce it has been nominated in three categories at the PRCA Public Affairs Awards, including the prestigious Consultancy of the Year category. Lodestone Communications is a strategy and public affairs agency providing sharp analysis, creative thinking and agile delivery. Its team has a combined experience of working within political parties, the media and policy, providing the perfect blend of strategic counsel and tactical implementation. Martha Dalton, co-founder and Managing director of Lodestone Communications, said: “Lodestone was created in 2012 to disrupt the public affairs sector, pulling together bespoke, cross-party teams to provide unrivalled sharp analysis of an evolving political climate and public affairs landscape. Our nominations are testament to the strength and breadth of our team’s expertise in the sector – we have… Read Article > Tell Me Lies Hands up who wants to live in SuperCanada? It is just like Canada but it has bridges to everywhere and really cheap, chlorinated chicken for all. No? Ok, how about Singapore-Upon-Thames? Or Switzerland-by-Sea? Or the Hidden Kingdom of the Second Camelot? If conservatism is primarily the product of scepticism and caution when it comes to Utopianism, then the Conservative Party has forgotten its purpose. Or, at least, the grassroots have. Theresa May and her dwindling band of loyalists at least try to live in the dialectic of reality. ‘Chequers’ might have been rejected by antagonists in the EU and in her own party, but it at least was an attempt to engage with Brexit as an iterative progression from where we are now. The alternatives – lapped up… Read Article > We’re Not in Kansas The Wizard of Oz was – before its salvation via Judy Garland – a popular but cranky extended allegory for a niche conspiracy theory. L. Frank Baum – the creator of Oz and of Dorothy and of all those flying monkeys – is widely believed to have written his modern fairytale as a warning about the perils of abandoning the Gold Standard. In this interpretation -repeated here mostly because it is useful to this note’s purpose – the famous Wizard represented politicians, seeking to convince naive Americans of the power of the ‘greenback’ when, in the author’s view of things, without a gold backstop the dollar was worthless. Tricks and bluster and myth-making and theatre are used to make the Wizard seem big and strong and mighty; he… Read Article >
This Charming Man Aung San Suu Kyi has a Nobel Peace Prize. Morrissey created a hymnal to the sorrows of working class difference. Harvey Weinstein has quite a few Oscar winners to his name. It is possible to have been a force for good or for truth or for creative achievement and then to not be, later. The Lib Dems enter their conference in a bind. They are led by a man who was once the undisputed king of moral authority in British politics. He had predicted the recession. He had compared Gordon Brown to Stalin. He could dance the tango and he had emanated decency. ‘Had’. ‘Did’. ‘Could’. The problem with Vince Cable is that every reason for him to be the leader of the Liberal Democrats is a past… Read Article > Bomb First (My Second Reply) Is this how it will be forever? Week in, week out. Like films in the Saw horror franchise or the Changing of the Guard? Boris Johnson – former London Mayor, former Foreign Secretary, former liberal conservative – has a weekly column in The Telegraph. Most weeks, The Telegraph choose some line or other from his column as a front-page splash. A gag about religious minorities, say, or a somewhat vacuous call to build more houses. Then the news programmes put this ‘story’ from The Telegraph in their bulletins. And thus, Boris Johnson – a man who failed to make the run-offs for the leadership of the Conservative Party just two years ago – sets the agenda or at least the tone for the week’s political rough and tumble.… Read Article > Them Heavy People It’s all getting a bit heavy over at Labour’s Victoria Street Headquarters. The leadership has – for the last three years – been something of a miracle of suspended animation. What should fall, what all the laws of physics tell us must fall has – somehow – stayed aloft. Jeremy Corbyn is the bumble-bee leader that Labour never knew was possible. But maybe, just maybe the universe’s natural laws are beginning to assert themselves again. Just in time for the summer holidays. One of the miracles has been the sustained comradeship between people at the top of the hard-left (and, now, at the top of the party) who – not to put too fine a point on it – hate one another. Old Stalinists direct strategy while new-age… Read Article > Sugar, We're Going Down The phenomenon of dynamic equilibrium is one that we are all familiar with even though we may not think about it much. When you add sugar to a glass of water the sugar dissolves. All looks calm. The structure holds. And yet, below the surface, many millions of atoms are moving frantically all of the time – all to keep the sugar water standing still. Our politics is in a period of dynamic equilibrium. The atoms zoom, creating mini-dramas almost every day. But the structure holds, static, for now. The Government has managed to defeat its rebel soft-Brexiteers’ amendment to the Trade Bill – which would have kept the U.K. in a Customs Union should we fail to reach a deal by March. The Government has also avoided… Read Article > When The Levee Breaks No-one likes a know-it-all and ‘told you so’ are three of the least popular words in the English language but, still, the PM can’t say she wasn’t warned. Irreconcilable promises always – always – find you out in the end. Still, though, being caught out in the space of just 24 hours does feel a little like tough luck. To recap, Number 10 promised Dominic Grieve and his band of rebels that Parliament would be given a meaningful vote – in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit – to allow MPs a real say in what would happen next. Number 10 also promised David Davis (and Jacob Rees Mogg’s ERG) that no such guarantee had been given. The Government then negotiated an amendment with Grieve that reflected… Read Article >
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall Recent studies have demonstrated that prolonged periods of financial insecurity can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. People who live on the breadline – not knowing from one day to the next how they will feed themselves or their family – can suffer similar long-term mental health impacts to soldiers returning from the battlefield. Psychiatrists and researchers speculate that this is a product of deep, repetitive and existential uncertainty. Not knowing whether you will eat or be safe tomorrow is not dissimilar to not knowing where the enemy’s snipers are hidden. This is all very bad news for the Prime Minister. ‘Deep, repetitive and existential uncertainty’ could serve as Theresa May’s motto for government. Week after week she does not know with any confidence whether or how she will… Read Article > Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again? Michael Gove thinks that the Chancellor is getting in the way of a ‘green Brexit’. Jacob Rees-Mogg is worried that it has started to look like Theresa May ‘doesn’t want to Brexit’ at all. Greg Clark is rumoured to have been tearful – with grief or with frustration we aren’t told – in Cabinet meetings to discuss our options on Customs. The Prime Minister’s idea for a partnership to avoid a hard border in Ireland is ‘mad’, says her Foreign Secretary, in between issuing demands for a personal aeroplane to transport him around the world. The alternative – favoured by the European Research Group – is called ‘max fac’ and is, literally, science fiction. One doesn’t have to be a ‘Remoaner’ to worry this isn’t going terribly well.… Read Article > Daydream Believers From the outside, apocalyptic movements are hard to comprehend or understand. Repeated promises that the ‘end is nigh’, often with a specific date attached, lead to nought. The world keeps turning and apocalypse keeps being postponed. Why don’t people leave when it becomes clear that their beloved guru or pastor got it wrong? When it dawns on them that they sold all their earthly possessions and said goodbye to their nearest and dearest for no reason at all? Why does (often repeated) evidence that they are victims of a fraud not convince members of these groups to abandon them and thus leave their false prophets without followers or financial backing? Well, because the wrongness is part of the sell. Each time the true believers agree, once again, to… Read Article > Lodestone Chairman interviewed by PRCA Director General Our Chairman and co-founder, David Wild, sat down with the Public Relations and Communications Association’s director general Francis Ingham to discuss current public affairs in an article published on Public Affairs News. What’s David’s take on what’s going on in politics now? His insight from the interview: “Public affairs, politics, and business are mashing together in a way that really hasn’t happened since Thatcher de-coupled politics and business at the back end of the 80s with her privatisation programme.” With business and politics converging and the past couple years seeing nearly every popular political predication turn out to be inaccurate, what sets Lodestone apart? David explained:  “At the core of what we do is our analysis. We live and die on its quality. That’s the thing that sets… Read Article > Dizzy! My Head Is Spinning As ever, Prime Minister Theresa May is battling a leadership crisis this week. Rumours abound that the Chair of the 1922 Committee is getting perilously close to having enough letters of no confidence in Mrs May to automatically trigger a vote on her future (48 is the magic number). If a vote is forced (and it will come as a surprise, when it comes, as the present number of letters is a jealously guarded secret) the PM will have to decide whether she can face (and whether she can win) a brutal confidence vote. If not, once the threshold is reached she will have to bow out. Meanwhile, the long-brewing row over the ‘transition period’ is bubbling and spitting and threatening – finally – to boil over. May… Read Article >
The Unlucky General Relentlessly, right up to the line, 2017 continues to surprise and unsettle. Damian Green believed that he was in the clear. So did many of his colleagues and sources close to the Prime Minister. But in the end it was his efforts to fight off allegations from a decade ago – rather than the incident with a young, female journalist – that saw him off. Green claimed that he had never been told that police had found pornography on a laptop connected to him. This was not true. And so the Prime Minister asked him to resign. It doesn’t mean that the ‘de facto Deputy Prime Minister’ accessed the pornography, or indeed that he had done anything untoward, but you cannot deceive in public statements and expect to… Read Article > The Walls Are Closing In Theresa May is running out of choices. This is happening because of the choices that she once made. The clock is ticking on our negotiations with the EU, because Theresa May triggered Article 50 sooner than was wise. We cannot make the compromises necessary to maintain the free flow of goods and people across the Irish border, because Theresa May’s election left her dependent on the DUP. She has shrinking wriggle room in her negotiations because she unilaterally ruled out almost all the alternative relationships with the EU that had been offered up as examples by the Leave campaign themselves. Our Prime Minister has placed herself in a room, locked the door and now watches as the walls close in on her from all sides – she is… Read Article > Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right Philip Hammond was once – very recently, in fact – a politician basically in touch with the consensus of his age. Mildly pro remaining in the EU, enthusiastic about balancing the budget, keen on the relentless march of free trade and global prosperity. He fitted the bill. Nowadays, he looks like man out of touch and out of his time – a strange relic of a bygone age. To his Left, Labour has abandoned any flirtation with ‘fiscal credibility’ of the kind that was once dictated (perversely) by George Osborne. To his Right, many in the Tory Party have proven remarkably happy to sacrifice austerity and trade at the altar of Brexit. Hammond may disdain of these ideological positions – regarding those who surround him as clowns, jokers… Read Article > Lodestone consultant shortlisted for PRCA’s best young public affairs professional of the year prize We’re delighted to announce that Philippa Alway, a Senior Account Executive at Lodestone, has been shortlisted for the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) Douglas Smith Prize. This annual award recognises the best young consultants working within UK’s public affairs industry. Within a year at Lodestone, Philippa has quickly become a highly skilled public affairs specialist advising organisations in a number of sectors including energy, higher education and tech. She organises high profile events and supports the provision of secretariat services for the Parliamentary Internet Communications and Technology Forum APPG, for which Lodestone has recently been shortlisted for the Best Public Affairs Campaign by the CorpComms 2017 Awards. Philippa is also a community organiser for RegistHERtoVote – a cross-party grassroots action campaign encouraging women across the country to… Read Article > Play It Again, Sam This is the Groundhog Day Government. Another week, another scandal, another minor reshuffle to paper over the cracks. Lessons learned? None. Hope of avoiding repetition? Zilch. Theresa May is doomed to go from one ‘worst week ever’ to another in a horrifying cycle of Tory self-immolation. It is tempting, because we have a two-party adversarial democracy – to believe that the break in this carousel of chaos will be a new Government. Surely, we sigh, the Opposition will break through? Well, maybe. But there is a unique edge to Corbyn’s Labour that makes such an outcome far from inevitable. One, he shows no sign of pulling decisively ahead – disaster after disaster for the Government fails to upset the balance finally for Labour. Two, unabashed socialism makes Tories… Read Article >
Chinese Radiation In European philosophies of kingship, legitimacy is usually premised on some combination of blood, faith and a nod to parliamentary acceptability. The Chinese see things differently. For Emperors of China, legitimacy comes from another source altogether. It doesn’t matter so much what blood you have in your veins (though those born into royalty obviously have an advantage when it comes to maneuvering their way to the top); religion is a different, less absolute creature in Chinese culture; parliaments never really took for the Chinese – then or now. No, for a Chinese Emperor, legitimacy comes from something that sounds vague but is actually deadly simple: The Mandate of Heaven. Here’s how it works: if an Emperor is legitimate, if they have the Mandate of Heaven, then things will… Read Article > New Award Shortlisting: Making tech policy strategic, inclusive and relevant - one year of helping Parliament engage with the tech sector We’re pleased to announce we’ve been shortlisted for the Best Public Affairs Campaign by CorpComms 2017 Awards for our work with the Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum (Pictfor). Adding to our growing recognition — most recently Lodestone was shortlisted for the PRCA’s Ethical Champions 2017 Award — we are proud to deliver the best for our clients. Pictfor is the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the tech sector. The group provides a forum for Parliamentarians, members of the technology industry and other stakeholders to meet, understand priorities and share ideas on how to continue to strengthen the UK’s position as a leading digital economy.    We concentrated on delivering a renewed strategic focus while increasing the group’s inclusivity, diversity and relevance. To do this Pictfor needed new ideas,… Read Article > Isn’t It A Pity The leadership of the Conservative Party hoped that their conference in Manchester this year would press pause. Pause on the deflation of Theresa May’s authority as Prime Minister. Pause on Jeremy Corbyn’s love affair with significant numbers of voters. Pause on the civil war that they can feel warming up and closing in. Despite everything – or, perhaps, thanks to everything – they will feel an uneasy optimism this morning. Yes, Theresa May’s speech to conference was a disaster. But it was such a disaster, filled with so many mishaps and almost ludicrous bad luck, that it suspends the Prime Minister in animation. The prankster, the coughing fits, the shoddy stage – any on their own might have killed her off. Together they protect her in an armour… Read Article > O Come, All Ye Faithful What to make of Labour Conference? And what does it mean for the Tories as they gather, next week, for their own? The first thing to understand about the delegates who gathered in Brighton is that they are not – for the most part and despite appearances – delusional. They know that they did not win the General Election. They know that Jeremy Corbyn is not Prime Minister. But they also know that, in-spite of all that, they have snatched a victory of sorts from the jaws of certain defeat. Closing the gap between Labour and the Tories from well above 10% to just over 2% was an unprecedented achievement. Winning seats when almost everyone predicted they would lose them – particularly in Tory strongholds such as Canterbury… Read Article > The Only Way is Up For most politicians, the rough and tumble of the day-to-day means that tactics come first and strategy has to wait. Our MPs and ministers live in a state of perpetual motion when the House is sitting – running like a cartoon character who has run out of road, refusing to look down lest gravity get the better of them. The relentless intensity of legislative life serves a purpose: it tends to weed out fools and frauds and it rewards both stamina and good, snap judgement. Many a shining political star has waned upon introduction to the grinding reality of Westminster. For example, Boris Johnson has been an MP twice and on both occasions his colleagues have found him wanting. Recess, then, is not merely a chance for MPs… Read Article >
Lodestone celebrates 5th year On Wednesday, we gathered with friends and family to celebrate Lodestone’s 5th anniversary on the rooftop of the National Theatre in London. With the hung Parliament, Trump, and Brexit, these past five years have been some of the most turbulent times in political memory. One of the few firms to predict the unexpected, we’re proud of our innovative approach: combining sharp analysis, creative thinking and agile delivery with an expert team. We want to inspire the next generation to think strategically too. In celebration of our 5th anniversary, we’re giving back by supporting a number of causes that are close to our hearts.   We’re proud to have donated towards the inaugural production of the newly formed Batley and Spen Youth Theatre. The theatre group put on Les Misérables… Read Article > I Should've Known We'd Never Get Far Summer is here and, for Theresa May, it couldn’t have come soon enough. The Prime Minister needs a holiday (three weeks walking in the Alps, since you ask) and so does her party. This has been a traumatic year – full of disappointments and unexpected difficulties – for Tory MPs. Twelve months ago they welcomed a new Prime Minister into office in their traditionally boisterous manner; tables were banged, cheers resounded, relief was sighed. By common consent Theresa May was the strong, stable salvation that the party needed after a referendum campaign that had soured life-long friendships and a leadership election that had descended into sub-Shakespearean tragic farce. Theresa May was a grown-up. Theresa May didn’t ‘play games’. Theresa May would approach the real and terrifying challenges of… Read Article > Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose As Brexit looms – the ultimate essay deadline crisis – the Conservative Party is staring into an abyss. A period of relative calm was ushered in via a deal with the DUP but Theresa May’s position remains difficult and precarious. Money for Ulster has unravelled Tory unity over austerity – which was, until the election, an uncontested orthodoxy in Conservative circles. If the Government can pay £1.5 billion to Northern Ireland in order to stay in power, why can they not find a few more pounds and pence to make MPs’ post-bags a little less miserable? On one side of this argument are Boris Johnson and the Secretaries of State for Health and for Education. On the other sits Philip Hammond and the last remaining Cameroons – convinced… Read Article > Waterloo How do you feel that they won the war? Most of the commentariat remains in shell shock. At Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender. It was as much a surprise to him as it was to his enemies. Over-confident, arrogant, too sure of his own abilities – in the end Bonaparte believed his own spin and became unspun as a result. Theresa May now knows how he felt. Even after a poor campaign, replete with u-turns and recriminations, May went into yesterday’s vote expecting a big majority. Perhaps not the 100-130 seat margin that excitable pollsters once predicted but a whopper nonetheless. Having conquered Britain in spirit she was going to do so in fact. She has not. If the Prime Minister has not resigned by the time you read… Read Article > No Expectations There’s just under a week until Britain votes and it is fair to say that the campaign has not gone as Theresa May hoped. When she called a snap election, the Prime Minister was congratulated by most of her party for sharp political judgement. Yes, some Ministers and aides were angry and felt misled by her previous insistence that there would be no early vote. But with Jeremy Corbyn polling abysmally and Labour in a state of Cold War with itself, victory seemed inevitable. It is still almost certain that the Conservative Party will be in a position to form the next Government. But few people are talking seriously now about a majority in three figures and some Tory MPs and commentators now fear that all this may… Read Article >
Lodestone Nominated for Drum Award for Integrated Strategy of the Year Lodestone are delighted to announce that we have been nominated for a prestigious Drum Award, alongside our agency partners. Nominated for our work supporting long-time client Young’s Seafood, the UK’s number one fish and seafood business, Lodestone and the other agencies involved are up for the Integrated Strategy of the Year award. Contributing to double digit growth of a key Young’s brand, the campaign is a great example of how a multi-agency approach – with corporate, internal and trade comms fully aligned with advertising, media buying, consumer PR and digital strategy – can generate industry leading results. Lodestone and Young’s were nominated alongside advertising agency Quiet Storm, media planners MediaCom, digital agency Activation, and consumer PR agency Kazoo. All of whom supported Young’s during the campaign. Other nominees… Read Article > Don’t Look Back In Anger Campaigning has been suspended for much of this week, in honour of those innocents who were massacred in Manchester. As Britain sought to understand what had happened – an impossible task – our politicians reached for whatever words they could find to express our horror and our disgust. But it fell, aptly, to the poets and the lyricists of the North to truly capture the spirit of the moment. Tony Walsh, known as Longfella, read his love letter to Manchester on the steps of the town hall to a defiant crowd. Spontaneously, first as a ripple and then as a roar, Mancunians belted out Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger when the minute’s silence ended. Theresa May is good at speaking to a heartbroken country but she has… Read Article > What You Want, Baby I Got It This week, manifesto week, we benefited from a rare public glimpse into the psyches of the two main candidates for Prime Minister and their closest advisers. The manifestos themselves tell you a bit about what a Government of either shade may seek to do. But their framing and their priorities also tell us an awful lot about what Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn really think is going on in British politics. First up was Labour’s launch – or relaunch, if you like, given that the whole thing had been leaked the week before. There was little to surprise anyone who had read the widely disseminated early draft which was, in its own way, a victory for Corbyn. If members of the NEC and National Policy Forum had been… Read Article > Tangled up in Blue Politicians often tell their media interrogators that ‘the only poll that counts is the one on the day’ in order to deflect hypotheticals about likely outcomes. Given the recent track record of polling accuracy, this standard line has taken on new credence in the last few years. And this General Election has given observers a rare opportunity to look at the results from ‘the one on the day’ part way through – in the form of the local election results. It is important to caveat any conclusions from last week’s local elections with the following health warnings; these elections were not nationwide and therefore give a partial picture, they do not dictate the outcome of the General Election even in areas where polls took place and finally, some… Read Article > Homeward Bound   Theresa May is often described as a ‘cautious’ politician. She weighs her options, we are told, engaging forensically with the evidence before arriving at a decision. That is true up to a point. But, as described in these notes before, there is another side to May – an altogether bolder, braver instinct competes for her attention. It was on display when she told the Conservative Party, to its face, that it was seen as ‘nasty’. She showed it again when she insisted to steely-faced, shocked police officers that their culture of corruption and closed-ranks had to change. And it reared its head this week, too, as she stood at her prime ministerial lectern and demanded that the officials of the EU cease their ‘interference’ in the UK’s election.… Read Article >
What's New Pussy Cat? The first week of the election campaign closes today, with Parliament prorogued and candidates hastily selected in almost all seats for the main parties. Theresa May used her final PMQs of the season to hammer home her core message, that Britain faces a choice between stability under her leadership or chaos under Corbyn’s. This is a taste of things to come. May has a natural instinct to caution and an aversion to going off script, with Sir Lynton Crosby re-ensconced at CCHQ as campaign manager, this disposition will only be reinforced. Expect message discipline to reach dispiriting new heights in the coming week – for the PM, at least. Running concurrently, of course, we will have variations on the famous ‘dead cat’ strategy – with Cabinet Ministers and… Read Article > The night has reached its end, we can’t pretend We have written a fair bit, in these notes, about the idea of ‘political gravity’. Of course individuals, leaders, can make the weather now and again. They are not irrelevant. But they are also not all-powerful – even when, as was the case for David Cameron and remains the case for Theresa May, they are lucky in their opponents. Eventually the tug and pull of natural political forces reassert themselves over even the most talented or headstrong leader. So it was that David Cameron’s tightrope act on an EU referendum undid him. So it is that, despite her protestations otherwise, Theresa May has today announced that she will – after all – go to the polls ahead of schedule. The alternatives to obeying the laws of political gravity,… Read Article > Can’t Buy Me Love Triggering Article 50 – as the Prime Minister has done today – is a necessary precondition to negotiating anything about Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Since the Brexit vote, all the central pillars of EU governance – the Commission, the Parliament, the Council – have been united in clarity on this single, vital point. No ‘pre-talks’, no preliminary agreements, no scheduling of issues until Britain submits its formal declaration of intent. It was for this reason that, in spite of very real and public anger (including from many arch-Brexiteers) Theresa May was simply unable to offer EU citizens resident here a binding promise about their future, even had she wanted to. British politics has had a surreal, dream like quality since last June, with Brexit hovering like… Read Article > £160-million new student residences at Keele University given go-ahead Lodestone Local, the strategic stakeholder engagement consultancy, is delighted to announce that exciting plans for £160-million student residences at Keele University have received unanimous approval from Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council. The scheme will provide around 1,300 students with accommodation, taking the total to approximately 4,300 rooms within the next four to five years. This will include the construction of approximately 2,300 high-quality, affordable rooms, matching the ambitions of the University and its students as it expands from 10,000 to 13,000 students by 2020. Community consultation experts Lodestone Local – a unit of Lodestone – led on communications, political liaison and insight for the project together with its client University Partnerships Programme (UPP). The scheme involved Lodestone Local developing and delivering communications plans for each stage of the various consultation… Read Article > Till I can’t take it anymore In the end, Nicola Sturgeon had to call for a second referendum on Scottish independence. Since the Brexit vote, she had been dancing precariously on the head of a pin. The result had snuck up on her every bit as much as did Cameron, Osborne and London’s political-media elite. She had not anticipated England and Wales voting to leave the EU. She had not – truth be told – expected to be handed such a gift for her cause. And so, at first, she stumbled. For months she has coyly told journalists and voters that a second referendum was ‘likely’, ‘very likely’, ‘almost certain’ and ‘all but inevitable’ – all the while weighing her options, testing the water, avoiding committing herself too concretely. But you can’t run on… Read Article >
£130-million student accommodation at University of Hull gets green light Lodestone Local, the strategic stakeholder engagement consultancy, is delighted to announce that exciting plans for £130-million student residences at the University of Hull have received unanimous approval from Hull City Council. The scheme, which will enhance and expand the student accommodation on campus, will offer a range of single rooms and one bedroom apartments to a further 1,462 students. Community consultation experts Lodestone Local – a unit of Lodestone – lead on strategic communications, political liaison and community engagement for the project together with its client University Partnerships Programme (UPP). The scheme involved Lodestone Local developing and delivering communications plans for each stage of the various consultation phases. Additionally, it performed stakeholder audits and political analyses as part of its bespoke engagement strategy to support UPP. Jon Wakeford,… Read Article > We’re caught in a trap There is a paradox at the heart of this week’s budget, and in the popular reaction to it. On the one hand, the landmark changes to National Insurance for self-employed people signal the level of confidence within the Government that an early election is off the table. On the other, it demonstrates why going to the polls may prove necessary. Millions of people in self-employment will be affected by the harmonisation of NI – so that they pay the same proportion of their income as employees do. This will hit builders, plumbers, one-man-bands and white van men, hairdressers and child minders in their back-pockets – the very constituency that Theresa May describes as ‘Just About Managing’ and has promised to help. The rationale for the change is pretty… Read Article > Night Changes It’s a tribute to the uniquely low electoral expectations that Jeremy Corbyn inspires that calls for his resignation today are muted and unconvincing. It is safe to say that any other major party leader who had just lost a seat – to the Government, in a by-election, in a constituency that they had held for 80 years – would be in for kicking from their own side. But despite the very real historic significance of the Copeland result, Corbyn is unlikely to be forced to give an ashen-faced goodbye speech in the next few days. His safety is in part a product of Labour’s structural nightmare and in part a product of the veneer of invincibility that two leadership victories have lent him; because of both, he will… Read Article > Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away It was Theresa May’s overwhelming armada of support in the parliamentary Conservative Party that made her Prime Minister. Had her coalition of MPs not been so broad and so deep she may have found herself facing arch-Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom in a run-off for the votes of Conservative members. It’s likely May would have won anyway – likely, but not inevitable. Leadsom herself has stated that it was the enormous margin by which May led her amongst their colleagues that finally pushed her out of the race. And Leadsom’s campaign manager still maintains that were they to have made it onto a ballot, his candidate would have stood a good chance of grabbing the prize. So May has the – not always early or enthusiastic – support of her… Read Article > If you don’t know me by now… This week Jeremy Corbyn returned to work after a lengthy (and hopefully restful) Winterval break. As the Labour Leader toured breakfast TV and radio studios, many of his backbenchers were given cause to regret their criticisms of his period of self-enforced silence – it turns out that sometimes bad publicity is not better than no publicity at all. Excited aides had briefed the press that we were about to get a sneak preview of a new Jeremy. ‘No more Mr Nice Guy’, we were promised; instead they were letting Corbyn off the leash and were now going to ‘let Jeremy be Jeremy’. It is a sad indictment of British politics that even the principled comrades of the hard-Left now openly play make-believe that they are characters in the… Read Article >
Lodestone Predictor In a year of shocks that many are happy to see the end of, a happier surprise (well, not a surprise to everyone as it turns out) has appeared! Lodestone Director, David Wild, has been named the winner in a brand new category in the Public Affairs News Awards. Editor David Singleton, using his ‘heavyweight, one-strong judging panel comprised of the UK’s leading public affairs journalist’, has named David the Mystic Meg of 2016. Predicting Brexit as well as Trump’s election, and explaining why our American-born Account Manager nearly had a breakdown on election night, David not only advised clients to prep for Brexit before anyone else saw it coming – he also put his own money where his mouth is and ended up bringing in loads from… Read Article > Lodestone Appoints Head of Tech and Digital, Following Growth and Pitch Wins Strategic communications and public affairs consultancy Lodestone has appointed Casey Calista to head up its growing tech and digital practice. This follows a number of wins, with the agency now providing secretariat services for the Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group), following a competitive pitch process. Lodestone also supports MediaGamma, who are leading the next generation of Artificial Intelligence, and the Sirius Programme, which supports entrepreneurs from around the world looking to start their venture in the UK. Martha Dalton, Managing Director of Lodestone, said: “We are delighted to welcome Casey to our team, providing invaluable support to tech businesses and those in other sectors who want to make the most of the opportunities that digital innovation can provide. She brings cutting edge… Read Article > Round the Corner Fudge is Made Yesterday, Philip Hammond delivered what he promised would be the last ever Autumn Statement. This quirk of the British parliamentary year has long caused more problems than it solved. No other Western democracy demands that the markets and inward investors tolerate – in essence – two budgets a year. It creates uncertainty and disruption – business has long lobbied for a little more stability and for less mid-year dispatch box tinkering. The reason that Hammond’s predecessors have ignored these pleas is that the Autumn Statement has given them a second bite of the cherry. One more day of dominating the news agenda; one more morning of front page photographs of you and your ‘box’; one more chance to bribe and cajole the electorate with goodies and prizes and… Read Article > Davos is Dead White, straight, male America has made its voice heard. Decades of being left outside, confused and bemused, by identity politics have made an impression on the very section of US society that ethnic, religious and other minorities have so often been reacting against. They have been told for decades that they couldn’t have a seat at the table – lacking, as they were, the purchasing power of a serviceable and saleable ‘identity’ – and have seen their wages, their power and their esteem depressed and reduced. But they have been watching and learning too. And it was in imitation of their perceived oppressors that they coalesced around a reductive but powerful view of themselves. Race, orientation, gender and religion are not solely the preserve of minorities; they can… Read Article > Can you hear the drums, Fernando? Theresa May does not want to hold an early election. This is not because she is ‘frit’ or because she believes there is a strong chance she may lose such a contest. This is not a repeat of Gordon Brown’s disastrous decision to stick rather than to twist. It is because she believes that yet another vote would be bad for Britain and bad for her chances of delivering a ‘good Brexit’. Further uncertainty might spark even greater market turmoil and inward investment may be even harder to come by – not chances she wishes to take. But history makes its own gravity and it is a rare politician indeed who can defy the physical laws of the political universe; an election beckons whether May likes it or… Read Article >
Lodestone Proud to be Accredited as Living Wage Employer Lodestone Communications are delighted to announce that the Living Wage Foundation has accredited them as a London Living Wage employer. The London Living Wage commitment will see everyone working at Lodestone, including anyone enrolled in the Lodestone Internship Programme or working as a cleaner on-site; receive a minimum hourly wage of £9.75 – significantly higher than the national minimum wage of £6.95 and the new minimum wage premium for over 25s of £7.20 per hour introduced this April. Strategic communications and public affairs consultancy, Lodestone, was founded 4 years ago by entrepreneurs and co-founders David Wild, Chairman; Martha Dalton, Managing Director; Fran O’Leary, Director of Strategy and Innovation; and Mike Parker OBE, Director. Lodestone currently advises organisations within the Energy, Property and Infrastructure, Higher Education, Food, FMCG, Defence,… Read Article > There Must be Some Kind of Way Outta Here Last week, Parliament returned after conference season (rather uncharitably, the Speaker still doesn’t extend recess to cover SNP conference) and reality began to bite. It is all very well swanning around Liverpool discussing your “mandate” or explaining to adoring crowds in Birmingham that “Brexit means Brexit”; the day-to-day of parliamentary business always finds you out. Theresa May is in a tricky spot of someone else’s making. On the one hand it is unlikely to be sustainable – in our parliamentary democracy, with so slim a majority – to continue to bar the House of Commons from voting on the what sort of Brexit we go for. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine how on earth the Government will be able to negotiate such a complex… Read Article > Walk like an Egyptian You don’t know where you are with a Sphinx, that’s sort of the point. With its lion’s haunches, eagle’s wings and human face – the Sphinx compels and confounds. And then, of course, it asks you its riddle. Get it right and you’re on your way, get it wrong and you’ll be devoured on the spot. “If Brexit means Brexit…” she purrs playfully “then what does Brexit mean?”. According to the diaries of Sir Craig Oliver – rushed from scribbled notes to the Mail on Sunday in record time – David Cameron felt betrayed by Theresa May’s ‘Sphinx-like behaviour’ in the run up to the EU referendum. She ummmed and ahhhed over which side to support and then – even when her mind was apparently made up –… Read Article > Oh, when the saints go marching in What is the Labour Party? That is the knotty, genuinely existential question that delegates in Liverpool are forced to ponder this weekend. For many Blairites (though not Blair himself) the answer is straightforward. Labour is a machine that exists to win elections in order that the Conservative Party does not. If that sounds arid and frankly uninspiring to you then you have something in common with the overwhelming majority of Labour members. The Blairite vision – victory at any price, surrender to (or, more generously, compromise with) the electorate, the customer is always right – is not without its own moral logic. If you believe, as many tribal Labour supporters do, that Toryism is defined by unremitting and deliberate cruelty then it is your job and your duty… Read Article > The Political Party Conferences 2016 The Labour Party will open their conference in Liverpool on Sunday 25 September, the day after the result of the leadership election has been announced. Jeremy Corbyn is widely expected to win re-election by a comfortable margin. But the result will bring no respite in Labour’s bitter factional wars. Only a few weeks ago, eight out of ten Labour MPs voted no confidence in Mr Corbyn’s leadership, and many went public with detailed, stinging critiques of his performance in the job. During the leadership campaign that followed, Mr Corbyn’s allies have been every bit as vociferous in response. What has been said by both sides cannot be forgotten or retracted, leaving the party with divisions that seem intractable. There is still no sign, however, that Labour is about… Read Article >
Taking Care of Business Theresa May has taken to power like the proverbial duck to water – demonstrating a grip on her party and on her agenda that has surprised many of her colleagues. It is important to remember that the Conservative Party has a majority of just twelve. It sometimes feels like more but that is a trick of the light, conjured by Labour’s unique take on the role of Most Loyal Opposition (opposition mostly to one another for the time being). That slender grip on power and on Parliament would have been a powerful incentive to avoid too much boat rocking. Keeping people where they are is always less trouble than shoving them out the way – at least, that was long Cameron’s logic. What’s more, many of the old… Read Article > She Stoops to Conquer Theresa May’s confident ascent to Britain’s highest political office has sometimes seemed unstoppable these last few days. Indeed, as Andrea Leadsom quit the race – after a disastrous and rancorous weekend – she and her supporters were able to cast her campaign as some sort of insurgent rebellion: Doomed to failure, sure, but honourable in its courage at battling the machine. It is worth reminding ourselves, then, that just a fortnight ago #TM4PM was less than certain – indeed, even to some of her closest supporters, it felt unlikely. The European referendum delivered a genuine punch in the gut to Britain’s political classes. Not many people – including many who campaigned for it – thought Brexit would succeed. The terror in Gove and Johnson’s eyes the next morning… Read Article > Lodestone Teams Up with Energy Expert Neil Stockley Strategic communications and public affairs consultancy Lodestone has signed up energy and environment specialist Neil Stockley to join its network of associates. Over the last eighteen years, Neil has provided public affairs and communications counsel to companies and organisations across the energy sector. He has also worked in the water, transport and technology sectors. David Wild, Chairman of Lodestone, said: “As the political, business, economic and regulatory landscape goes through this period of upheaval, Neil will provide businesses with invaluable insight drawing on his extensive, industry leading experience and expertise. Lodestone has a strong track record of advising clients in energy, waste, transport and infrastructure and we are delighted that Neil is working with us. We believe there is significant scope for growth in these highly regulated sectors… Read Article > Memo from Brussels: Article 50 Parting is such sweet sorrow, said Juliet to Romeo in Shakespeare’s eponymous play. But they were in love – the same cannot be said for the EU and the UK, whose fractious relationship could yet turn into an explosive divorce. Parting, for the UK, is bound to be fraught with difficulty. Indeed, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission – who frequently finds himself tired and emotional at such moments – said the separation would not be amicable because the two had never enjoyed an intimate love affair in the first place. Juncker and Martin Schulz – the sour-faced President of the European Parliament – do not want to string out the UK’s exit: far from it, in fact. They, and the Foreign Ministers of the six… Read Article > Memo from Brussels: Brexit   In Brussels this morning the sun came up, obscured as always by clouds, and the roads were clogged as usual – even more so because of a general strike that has paralysed the entire country. In short, life continues as normal in the Belgian capital, even if the mood in the EU institutions is subdued and pensive. The sense of keeping calm and carrying on – oddly, a rather British trait – could be symptomatic of a sense of latent confidence that the EU project will survive without Britain. On the other hand, it could be indicative of the ostrich mentality and lack of political empathy that has characterised the EU institutions for so long, and which has led to the bloc’s biggest schism in its 59-year… Read Article >
All Over Now With the victory of Vote Leave in the referendum we are living in a political world turned upside down. Nigel Farage has had his Triumph and the political establishment has been dealt a mighty blow. Cameron, known as a lucky politician, yesterday finally came unstuck with the biggest gamble of his life. The UK Is now entering a period of extreme political uncertainty with all that means for the economy. It will take time for the markets to stabilise and there is no knowing how much value will have been destroyed, or what contagion unleashed in other markets. Already the PM has announced his resignation in October as a result of his terrible miscalculation. A Brexit PM will be elected by the Tories in time for their Conference,… Read Article > Memo from Brussels The mood among Cameron’s counterparts in the European Council – the heads of state and government of the EU’s 28 member states – is largely resentful and unsympathetic. None of them are truly expecting the UK to vote to leave, but they deeply resent the distraction that this campaign has brought to EU business. After all, it’s not as though Brussels is lacking crises to manage. Yet here we are again, watching as the UK indulges in a protracted campaign which is essentially seen as an internal Tory battle. What the Prime Minister’s fellow leaders fear most is the stirring of anti-EU sentiment in their own countries. Of course, some EU states have already witnessed the rise of eurosceptic movements and parties – Lega Nord in Italy, for… Read Article > Lodestone Recognised as Industry Leader and Expands Across EMEA Lodestone, a Strategic Communications Consultancy, has this week been recognised for its industry leadership by PRWeek magazine. The publication included Lodestone in the prestigious top 15 ranking of UK headquartered public affairs agencies and listed Managing Director, Martha Dalton, as being one of the leading ‘30 Under 30’ communications professionals who are bringing new innovation to the industry. This news comes at the same time that the fast growing company announces its expansion into the UAE with the appointment of David Jenns as Director of International Business Development, based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Lodestone is headquartered in London, the company has delivered contracts in the USA and expanded further into Europe with operations in Brussels. David Wild, Chairman of Lodestone, said: “With a strong track record in advising… Read Article > New York State of Mind You’ll be forgiven a slight sense of déjà vu. When Donald J. Trump first announced he was running for President the news was greeted with knowing laughs. He would be quickly and roundly exposed, beaten into submission by more established and altogether smoother operators. In the end it would be JEB or Rubio – them’s the laws of political gravity. Instead – riding a tide of newly engaged, rabid but ebullient supporters – Trump has taken on all comers and won. The establishment candidates, far from demonstrating classy durability, were swept before him. Various odd balls and obsessives fell by the wayside until, finally, the Grand Old Party was left to choose between a rock and a hard place; a weird, unlikeable crank…or ‘The Donald’. Just as Corbyn… Read Article > Good Kid, Mad City Zac Goldsmith is a nice man. Everyone says so, from ex-brother-in-law Imran Khan to many of the environmental activists and Green Party types that he has campaigned alongside for years. He is also rich, good looking and well connected – all attributes that usually help grease the wheels of a political career. Sadiq Khan, on the other hand, has a habit of inspiring an almost visceral level of personal dislike in his enemies. And yet, in just nine days – barring a polling upset greater even than last May’s – it is Khan who will be taking up office in City Hall. It is a credit to Khan that he saw off an impressive pack of rivals for his party’s nomination. He faced not only Blairite darling Tessa… Read Article >
Pirates of the Caribbean One of the most durable sources of progressive frustration in UK politics has been the steadfast refusal of the electorate to accept that it is not rich. Logical, Fabian arguments for higher taxation have often failed to curry favour even with those who would be completely unaffected – except to benefit from the redistributive intent – of rises. Nowhere has this trend been more stubborn nor more baffling than on the subject of Inheritance Tax. This is a penalty imposed only on the very rich and which cannot reasonably be said to take away anyone’s ‘hard earned’ wages (affecting, as it does, only the recipients of inherited wealth). And yet it is loathed. When George Osborne was desperately scrambling for something – anything – to prevent Gordon Brown… Read Article > From a Whisper to a Scream Back in 2003 Iain Duncan Smith, fresh from delivering a ‘back me or sack me’ turn at his party conference, was digging in as Leader of the Conservative Party. His close advisors, including a rather intense young man by the name of Tim Montgomerie, were determined to rescue their boss from the plotters. Here, they believed, was at last a truly conservative Leader of the Conservative Party. Europhobic, a scourge of social liberalism wherever he sniffed it out, implacable on law and order; IDS, they quietly admitted, was neither popular nor charismatic. But he was ‘authentic’. And that meant a lot to that group of Tory advisors and activists whose very identity within the party is shaped by the idea that ‘betrayal’ by their own leadership is a… Read Article > Budget 2016 This afternoon’s Budget 2016 was a far cry from George Osborne’s triumphant Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review 2015 just a few short months ago, where he ringfenced numerous government departments, u-turned on tax credits and spoke proudly of the UK fixing the roof “while the sun was shining”. Since then, he has warned that the storm clouds are gathering and the UK faces a “cocktail” of economic risks and is “not immune to slowdown and shocks.” Despite this, he made some bold announcements and proclaimed this as a budget for the “Next Generation.” Economic risks – with a nod to the potential for instability surrounding Brexit – formed a key part of Budget 2016’s narrative, and plans have been drawn up to spend £3.5bn less a year… Read Article > Up all night to get lucky For understandable reasons, the attention of the Westminster bubble (and indeed, of these notes) has been captured of late by the ongoing shenanigans at the top of the Labour Party. Every day has brought a fresh revelation, controversy or self-inflicted wound. And so it has been easy – and, let’s face it, fun – to concentrate on Corbyn at the expense of the rest of politics. But we must tear our eyes away and cease with the rubber necking, if only briefly, because the rest of politics hasn’t stopped happening just because we’ve all stopped watching. The Prime Minister is conspicuously enjoying his good fortune. Indeed, David Cameron might be forgiven for believing that he has been chosen personally by God for favour. He lost an election but… Read Article > He's behind you! A lot of politics is theatre. There’s the story-telling, of course. You have to recite other people’s words with freshness and sincerity but also learn how to improvise when it all starts to go wrong. And woe betide the politician who isn’t comfortable in costume (Ed Miliband in jeans, Cameron in ordinary wellies). But whether you succeed in politics depends a great deal on what genre of play you end up acting in – and that isn’t always in your control. Take Jeremy Corbyn (no, really, take him – badum-tsshh). He started the week as the star of his very own vengeance fable. He ended it a pantomime villain. It is not that the reshuffle took too long, though 55 hours does seem excessive when only two senior… Read Article >
Look to the future now, it’s only just begun MPs depart for their Christmas break after an extraordinary year in British politics. Like a failing, long-running TV show, democracy has served up a series of increasingly unbelievable and outlandish plot twists in 2015. It’s kept us all glued but it’s also unnerving and a fair few MPs, mostly on the Labour benches, will be hoping for a miraculous, Dallas-like deliverance over the festive season. But short of Chuka Umuna waking to discover Yvette Cooper sat in the big office at Brewer’s Green (“I’ve just had the most dreadful dream”…) we are where we are. At first glance the ground looks fair to good for the Conservative Party and poor to dreadful for Labour. The Tories enjoy a double-digit lead, the Prime Minister rates better with almost every… Read Article > You can run on for a long time George Osborne delivered his Comprehensive Spending Review and Autumn Statement this week with his back to the wall, looking out from a tight political corner. Weighed down by promises made in the heat of an election and that he never expected to keep, boxed in by a fiscal charter that strips him of elbow-room, blocked by defeat in the Lords on tax credit reform; the Chancellor would need all his political cunning to engineer an escape. On the face of it, he achieved his self-imposed mission impossible – but only with the help of a dose of good luck and some sleight of hand. The Office for Budget Responsibility rescued Osborne by upgrading their growth forecasts. Britain, they now claim, can expect very respectable growth of around 2.4%… Read Article > Born to run The last of 2015’s season of political festivals sees the Conservative Party descend on Manchester next week. The boys and girls in blue have much to celebrate and will not be shy about it. For the first time in over twenty years Britain has just elected, against the odds and in the face of disheartening polls, a Tory majority Government. And Labour have picked a Leader who – fairly or not – most Conservatives believe to be an unelectable gift to the Right. As pundits predict a decade of Tory rule and the opposition appears to be turning in on itself, expect plenty of ‘hooray’ from the Henrys in Manchester. Presiding over all of this will be a man who feels victory has vindicated him and is not… Read Article > Reason to believe Sections of the Labour clan gather in Brighton next week for a family reunion that will be charged with resentment for some and jubilation for others. The results of the Leadership contest are still fresh – so, too, are the wounds that it has opened. Jeremy Corbyn has a huge mandate – unprecedented in Labour history – but it is amongst the membership and the affiliated supporters who registered (in many cases) specifically to lend him their vote. The usual conference crowd of MPs, councillors, assorted lobbyists, commentators and enthusiastic young party apparatchiks are less convinced. Many feel that their party has been somehow stolen from them – oblivious, resiliently, to the absolute failure of their own more centrist candidates to excite – and bitterness abounds. Many MPs… Read Article > Dancing in the dark This weekend the Liberal Democrat Party gathers in Bournemouth for their annual conference. There is not a great deal for them to celebrate, aside from having finally been liberated from their two-year conference deal with Glasgow City Council. The election saw their seats – painstakingly built up over thirty years of hard, local slog – reduced from 57 to just 8. They have hemorrhaged councilors, are down to just one MEP and lost 70% of their 2010 voters in the 2015 election. The Lib Dems have not so much fallen victim to a bump in the road as emerged bloodied from a head-on collision with the electorate. So, as they gather by the sea, this wounded tribe faces an epic and existential struggle to heal themselves. But visitors… Read Article >
Let's Stick Together 14th September 2015 No-one can accuse the Labour Party of ‘playing it safe’ with their choice of Leader this weekend. Jeremy Corbyn breaks every rule of modern political gravity. He is older (66) than any recent elected Leader of a major party; he has never held so much as a front bench role, despite having been an MP since 1983; he publicly and proudly disowns the policy consensus on a range of issues. Corbyn is, in others words, a living rebuke to those who are given to complain that ‘politicians are all the same’. There is some political logic to the choice. The rise of UKIP in England, the SNP in Scotland and breakaway Leftists across the Eurozone has pointed to the potential in authentic ‘anti-politics’ stances. And… Read Article > Put Your Left Leg In 17th August 2015 As ballot papers land on Labour members’ doormats this morning, the Party’s elite is struggling to work out a strategy – any strategy – for effectively countering the Corbyn surge. The truth is that even if by some miracle of bad polling (hardly unimaginable considering the events of May) Corbyn loses, he has thrown his party into a serious identity crisis. It isn’t going to be cured merely by Burnham or Cooper pipping him to the post at the last moment. Corbyn’s success has helped to grow the Labour electorate to a remarkable 600,000 voters – many of whom bring with them the zeal of the convert and revulsion at mainstream, centrist politics. They will demand a place for their candidate and for his views… Read Article > Zombie Dance 15th July 2015 There has been, these past five years, much mockery of Ed Miliband’s notion that he was on a mission to ‘reshape the centre ground of British politics’. Anyone who continues to deride this mission as fanciful risks looking a little foolish this week. It is true that Miliband failed in the essential test of any politician. He lost. But on the test he set himself he has surely passed. Who can deny that last week’s budget was shaped by Ed Miliband every bit as much as it was by its actual author George Osborne? Let’s look at the rhetoric. A National Living Wage that ends state subsidies for corporates that under-pay their employees. A push on productivity, to raise the general output of the British… Read Article > Budget 2015 George Osborne today resisted the temptation to unleash a wave of hard-right, super-charged austerity in the first Tory budget in nearly 20 years. Instead, he delivered a mellow and long-termist budget. Rather than make do with the short-term delights of tickling right-wing bellies, Osborne has decided to attempt something much more ambitious and potentially more rewarding. His rhetoric is tougher than the reality of his budget. He aims to use this period of his maximum power – both within the party, thanks to an election won for once, and more broadly, thanks to Labour’s naval gazing and obvious trauma – to reshape the centre-ground of British politics in much the same way that both Thatcher and Blair are credited with having done. It is that project that is… Read Article > You do it to yourself Between the pomp, the ceremony and the occasional moment of comic farce (google ‘Michael Gove + Prince Philip + Wig + Bag’) it’s sometimes possible to forget that the Queen’s Speech is more than just an extraordinary piece of theatre. Assembled in the House of Lords are the highest representatives of every arm of the British establishment – the Monarch, of course, as well as MPs and Peers – but also the Judiciary and the Bishops and senior Civil Servants. All squeezed in along the red benches to have the political landscape of the coming year mapped out for them. For the victors, it is a moment of triumph – particularly in the case of the Conservative Party, who last wrote a Queen’s Speech on their own nearly… Read Article >
Dreaming of a revolution As he spends the day reshuffling his Cabinet, David Cameron stands unchallenged at the top of English politics, with Miliband and Clegg forever vanquished and Farage’s future uncertain. Sturgeon did well, of course, but is for now safely contained North of the border. Under a Conservative majority Government, the SNP have much less clout than she had boasted they’d wield. Leadership contests will distract all the major parties in the coming months – creating a vacuum of opposition – whilst David Cameron (remarkably) presides, for the moment, over all he surveys. In light of the unexpected nature of his triumph, Cameron is determined not to waste this moment. He is a Prime Minister who is unusually conscious of politics’ capacity for creating surprise and disappointment – having spent… Read Article > Normal service is resumed David Cameron will now remain Prime Minister and the current Government will carry on, but without the Lib Dems. This result is decisive if still very tight in historical terms. The only person confirmed in their current Cabinet job is George Osborne, with everyone else waiting nervously by the phone. This victory will taste very sweet for the PM and his allies after the failure to secure a Tory-only Government in 2010. The polling was bang on. It was also so far from the mark that it led an entire political class to base their assumptions on a myth. How? Because whilst it was true – as every poll had predicted for months and months during this grinding and relentless election campaign – that each party would win about… Read Article > I can't get no.... Satisfaction! Two weeks left to go until we find out the result – or, at least, the raw ingredients in terms of seats from which a result must be cooked up. It’s fair to say that our political class is tired. This is one of the longest campaigns in living memory – the Fixed Terms Parliament Act having set the polling day in stone long ago – and also one of the closest. The campaign has been a marathon, one that is taking its toll on even hardened vote-chasers, and it is starting to show. The Tories live in a state of semi-permanent, bemused frustration. They have long believed that the election campaign proper would provide them with a polling breakthrough – that the more voters saw of Ed… Read Article > When shall we three meet again? Last night’s ‘challengers debate’ was a peculiar creature. Five party leaders lined up to rail against a Government that wasn’t even represented. Of course, this was what Cameron and co. had hoped for – muddle and uncertainty, they believe, are the friends of a Conservative majority and the enemies of Ed Miliband. To some extent, the stratagem worked as the ‘progressive troika’ of Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood took in turns to engage is a ritual of political courting with the Labour Leader. “I want to help you be bolder” Sturgeon told him, while Wood pleaded with Ed to “join with us to stop Tory cuts”. They threw both honey and fire at Miliband, acting now unashamedly as a chorus rather than as three properly distinct… Read Article > You take the low road Last week’s hodge-podge, melee of a debate left most people none the wiser about who was up and who was down – with only Nicola Sturgeon emerging unequivocally improved in her standing and popularity. That was ironic, given Nicola isn’t even running for a seat so no-one can actually vote for her, but perhaps it was her very remoteness from Westminster that allowed her to dance rings around her opponents. She had no such advantage as she faced her Scottish counterparts this week. And yet, in a tribute to her resilience and remarkable abilities, she came out on top yet again. That’s not to say that Sturgeon didn’t face a tougher ride. Jim Murphy delivered a masterclass in controlled aggression and barely concealed contempt – prompting the audience… Read Article >
Too many cooks In the midst of what has been a very flat, uninspiring short campaign there were high hopes of last night’s debate injecting some kind of momentum into the election countdown. In reality, it fell some way short of that. David Cameron got to debate in a format almost entirely of his own design. Seven leaders, two of whom don’t even field candidates in most of the country, all vying for attention and applause; Ed Miliband outflanked on the Left by three peripheral party leaders who already belong to an informal alliance; Nigel Farage’s challenge neutralised by the sheer cacophony of political noise. And to some extent, it worked. Ed Miliband did well, but the strange equations of political mathematics mean that he didn’t do quite as well as… Read Article > The end of the affair After what feels like months of premature electioneering, this week the House rose for the final time this Parliament. For the Coalition it is the end of the affair. Members from marginal constituencies nervously said their goodbyes and packed-up to go and meet their fates. Retiring MPs gave their last speeches in the Chamber and anxiously begged for gossip about who might, or might not, make it on to the Prime Minister’s final list of Peers. And a cloud of apprehension – even more stark than usual at this time – hung over the Palace of Westminster, as even those members who expect to return in May contemplated the chaos they are likely to be met with once the votes are counted. This was the week when the… Read Article > Budget for the base George Osborne delivered his final budget of this Parliament surfing a wave of backbench and grassroots expectation. This was the moment they had been waiting for – the breakthrough that would deliver, finally, decisive space between the Conservative Party and the opposition in the as-yet deadlocked polls. But the Chancellor was not where he had hoped himself to be. He had expected this to be a moment of triumph – when the fruits of austerity would finally blossom and there would be tax cuts and goodies to distribute to a grateful electorate. Instead, Osborne is only half-way through the fiscal consolidation that he promised and there are still far too many gaps in the public finances to allow for grand acts of electoral generosity. Many Tories – weirdly… Read Article > The Second Coming With just over fifty days left till Britain votes, the peripheries of politics are moving menacingly to the centre of the action. The polls stubbornly refuse to budge – predicting a stalemate outcome which not only leaves both parties shy of a majority but means that the Lib Dems alone may well not be able to prop up a Government. And so, the national parties of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are setting out their stalls and their demands in the hope that their time has finally come. This has led to some interesting manoeuvring. The Conservative Party has a much more limited range of options for partnership – the SNP and Plaid Cymru have already effectively ruled out ‘propping up’ a Tory Government. The last thing that… Read Article > The Phantom Menace With the long campaign to May well underway, we’re now all well acquainted with the messages, soundbites and attack-lines that we’ll be treated to over the coming months. If this election feels like it’s already gone on longer than most – and with still four months to go – that’s because it has. The Fixed Term Parliament Act, introduced to give the Lib Dems a sense of security in coalition, means that the traditional right of the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament and go to the public is abolished. Instead the date is set in stone – thus the early start on campaigning. Thus months and months of relentless messaging. With five party politics now a reality in some constituencies, Labour and the Conservatives have sought to kick-off… Read Article >
In the Bleak Midwinter George Osborne’s Autumn Statement was his – and the Conservative Party’s – last chance to inject ‘big bang’ economic arguments into the forthcoming General Election. There will be a final Budget of this Parliament early next year but its proximity to the election, and Lib Dem demands that all controversy be left out, dictate that it will be a duller affair than usual. So it was that this week Osborne used one of his last available set-pieces to attempt to set the tone for the coming battle and for a Conservative Government of the future. Any serious analysis of his performance must therefore be conducted not on the economics of his announcements but on their politics. Which is lucky because the economics was, at best, extraordinarily questionable. Osborne… Read Article > Hard Times If UKIP had sought to genetically engineer a politician, designed to best aid their disgruntled narrative of a political class that is both elitist and metropolitan, they could very well have ended up with Emily Thornberry. The recently departed Shadow Attorney General cast Labour at the centre of political drama at the very moment when Ed Miliband’s strategy was to stay quiet, stay out of the way and enjoy the humiliation of yet another Blue seat turning purple. The fact that her resignation was swift – unusual for Miliband’s frontbench, where worse crimes have been consciously ignored in the interests of stability – points to the very real damage that Thornberry’s ill-advised tweet has done. She has reinforced a narrative of Labour which hurts it most in its… Read Article > The Spirit of ‘45 Whatever the final result of the vote itself, the Scottish independence referendum has been a crushing and humiliating blow for the British establishment. The United Kingdom entered this campaign with a double-digit lead over separatism. Now the best the Better Together campaign can hope for is a narrow – and hollow – win by a couple of points. The polling evidence tells us that, if that is the case, it will have been pensioners’ votes for the status quo – combined with Salmond’s inability to persuade most women – that saves this 300 year-old country from dissolution. The majority of younger voters and men are convinced by the nationalist case which is why the three main UK parties have been forced to offer last-minute devolution concessions, and why… Read Article > Four in the bed and the little one said… After three weeks on the road, touring the country’s hotel bars and conference centres, the political establishment is now left to mull over the state of the parties. What is clear is that this is one of the most confusing and confounding pre-election backdrops in living memory. Labour went first, in Manchester for their post-referendum and (if the polls were to be believed) pre-power shindig. One might have imagined – with a lead in opinion polls, Scotland safely secured within the Union and a likely by-election victory in Heywood and Middleton – that spirits would be high. They weren’t. In fact, this was a conference that felt like a pre-emptive wake. Activists were still recovering from the shell shock of the panicky last weeks before Scotland’s vote –… Read Article > Oh England, my lionheart Not only did Scotland vote to stick with the Union last night but they did so convincingly. A campaign that had seemed set to do the politically impossible – and somersault from a 25 point deficit to victory – was, in the end, constrained by the rules of gravity. 55% to 45% is a decisive win for the Better Together campaign. It is not the stomping victory some had presumed would be theirs, but it puts paid to the notion of independence for a generation. The psychological impact of the final vote tally, 1,617,989 for Yes 2,001,926 for No, is significant in drawing a line under the matter, as is the fact that in only four local authority areas did Salmond win a majority of the local votes.… Read Article >
A New Relationship *This note was commissioned from a SNP insider and Lodestone Associate   Scotland moving towards independence is part of long process. The SNP was formed in 1934 but it wasn’t until the late 60s that an SNP politician was elected to Westminster. In the intervening time, the devolution process resulted in Scotland having its own government in 1999, although it was named diminutively the Scottish Executive until the SNP came to power in 2007, when it was renamed the Scottish Government. The country has seen the SNP and other parties in power in Scotland over many years and knows that panic about democratic constitutional change is unnecessary. Two key figures are charismatic First Minister and SNP Leader Alex Salmond, who has a background in oil economics and is… Read Article > Out in the Cold Scottish Referendum – 18 September 2014 *This note was commissioned from a Scottish Labour insider and Lodestone Associate Summary Scottish independence would mean: – a new currency – initially ‘sterlingisation’, the unilateral adoption of the pound without the protection of the Bank of England – the flight of the financial service industries – higher energy prices – repatriation of defence manufacturing, including supply chain, to rUK (the remaining UK) to protect sovereign capability – cuts in public services and tax increases – VAT on food, children’s clothes and newspapers; Schengen; and joining the euro – demands for new tax-raising powers for Wales, and powers for cities outside London – requirement to immediately eliminate pension fund deficits – sin taxes imposed on alcohol and food – a constitutional crisis… Read Article > The Final Countdown The deckchairs on Mr. Cameron’s Titanic were not so much rearranged as entirely re-upholstered this week, as he sought to put in place a top team fit for a general election. Many have described the reshuffle in terms of gender – noting Cameron’s determination to surround himself with more women in order to neutralise Labour’s attack on his very male inner circle. This is an understandable line of analysis given that the Government briefed heavily that this was a ‘reshuffle for women. It is also useful, though, to see the personnel decisions made on Monday and Tuesday in terms of generational change. Out, for the most part, were the Conservative front-bench’s real veterans. Lots of old-fashioned, late-nineties wets lost their jobs – including Damien Green, Dominic Grieve, Ken… Read Article > Not London Calling Why do people vote UKIP? That is going to be the take-home question from today’s local election results – and, indeed, from the Europeans which will be announced over the weekend. It is clear now that UKIP are able to take votes from traditional supporters of all three main parties – a trend that has shown up in the polling for some time but which Labour and the Lib Dems have studiously ignored and hoped would disappear come election day. The threat that Nigel Farage’s barmy army poses to mainstream UK politics cannot now be downplayed – a repeat of his party’s performance come the General Election would guarantee ‘no-overall-control’ and a hung Parliament – in much the same way that it is has done in councils up… Read Article > A New Morning? Well, they did it. After months of speculation that Nigel Farage and his supporters were over-egging their chances of topping the Euros, UKIP proved that it wasn’t hubris after all. They won on vote share and on number of seats – pushing the Tories into third place (a first in a national election) and denying Ed Miliband’s Labour Party the chance to demonstrate that they were truly connecting with the electorate. UKIP has given the political establishment the bloody nose they hoped for – and achieved a first in British political history. And yet, we’re not seeing a complete breakdown within the main parties. The Conservative Party hasn’t melted into a panicked feeding frenzy. David Cameron isn’t expecting a visit from the 1922 committee, bearing a revolver and… Read Article >
'The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover' George Osborne’s Budget was his attempt to balance his fiscal conservatism against Robert Halfon’s call for the Tories to remodel themselves as ‘The Worker’s Party’. Working class leisure – from beer to bingo – was treated to tax reductions that are as much symbolic as they are significant in terms of pounds in pockets. And the big ‘rabbit in the hat’ policies – relief for low-income savers and for pensioners -were all about rewarding those ‘hardworking families’ we’ve all heard so much about. Osborne promised a Budget for ‘makers, doers and savers’. By (unusually in modern times) managing to keep key items for all those groups a secret until he stood up in the House Osborne will be rewarded for having achieved big wins on all three fronts.… Read Article > Eastleigh Blues Eastleigh is a political disaster for the Conservative Party and has plunged backbenchers (especially those in marginal seats) into despair. The fractious relationships at the top of both Coalition parties threaten both Clegg and Cameron and – by definition – the ability of the Coalition to function effectively and stay the course. Second place for the Conservatives would have been disappointing but explicable within the modernisers’ playbook. Coming third, behind UKIP, is devastating. The fact that the UKIP and Conservative candidates, combined, won 53% of the vote to the Liberal Democrats’ 32% will reinforce growing calls for some kind of pact with UKIP – something heavily backed by Conservative Vice Chair Michael Fabricant (who also ran this campaign). It is worth noting that the Liberal Democrat victory was… Read Article > Après moi, le deluge With much of Southern Britain submerged, and a by-election in Wythenshawe and Sale East, February has brought a deluge of political news and provided a bumper start to the final full year of this Government. The fact that flooding has been largely confined to either safe Tory or highly marginal seats lends a new political dynamic to an age-old problem. David Cameron’s pledge that ‘money is no object’ is widely viewed as a misstep for two reasons. One, as demonstrated by Patrick McLoughlin’s contradiction of the PM’s line, because this commitment is untenable. Two, because there is real anger in the North East and Humberside that, when they were confronted with similar devastation recently, no such open-ended promises were made. Cameron made an attempt to push back on… Read Article > Fear and Loathing in 2014 2014 is the year when manifestos will start to be written and clear blue water established between the three main parties – policy asks and policy risks will both come to the fore for politically engaged businesses this year. At the headline level, little has changed since the Party Conferences. It remains the case that Labour’s unconvincing poll lead means Ed Miliband is struggling to inspire confidence and enthusiasm in all but his most loyal consiglieres. In 2014, Miliband will also face the ‘Special Conference’ on Union funding which he set in motion – nothing will be decided, the actual proposals have been kicked well into the long-grass of 2017 – but expect plenty of posturing. Miliband’s essential problem is that he is widely perceived by both his… Read Article > The Lucky Generals The battlelines of the next General Election are a lot clearer following the Conference season and the reshuffles. Nick Clegg – in his now annual defeat of a grassroots motion (this time on austerity) – feels he has demonstrated his control of his party and defeated those sections for whom governing is a distraction from the ‘issues’. Ed Miliband on the back of a summer fraught with the Falkirk row and union funding avoided being pejoratively characterised as weak and indecisive. For Cameron, the summer bounce and his surprising evasion of blame over the Syria vote flowed into a conference in which members were reassured of his ambition to secure a full majority – his speech was well received if light on detail. Unusually all three Leaders improved… Read Article >
Spending Round 2013 Political Briefing This week’s announcements on Government spending, by the Chancellor George Osborne, mark the start of the long General Election campaign. The course for 2015 is now set, the rhetoric of infrastructure investment being the positive spin by the Coalition on what is in reality more of the same economic medicine. Labour are repositioning their economic strategy in terms of accepting the Government’s overall spending envelope, ‘close-marking’ in the jargon, and this is causing tactical problems as they now cannot just ‘oppose the cuts’. The strategic failure of Labour to present a coherent political analysis of the Banking Crisis of 2008 is now playing out in terms of a lack of trust on any alternative economic strategy to the one being pursued. At the Shadow Cabinet meeting… Read Article > Aspiration Nation vs. One Nation Budget day opened with the debut of George Osborne on Twitter. A bold move for the ‘submarine’ Chancellor who likes to remain out of sight. With the economy in apparent paralysis and most alternative policy avenues blocked by his own soundbites, Osborne’s economic room for manoeuvre was in short supply. George Osborne adopted an aggressive and strident tone to try and energise his own side in the House. His three big moves – a national insurance rebate for employers, bringing forward changes to the income tax threshold and the ‘help-to-buy’ scheme are all aimed at enthusing Conservative back-benchers. He delivered enough political substance to buy him some time and goodwill from some increasingly sceptical quarters of his party. Today’s Budget was, fundamentally, a battle to capture the imagination… Read Article > All to Play For... Now the dust has settled from the Conference season, and we pass what could potentially be this Parliament’s ‘half time’, the Conservative troops are becoming restless. The modernising project of the early Cameron years is looking tired and lacking in grassroots support. New groups inside the Party, like Blue Collar Conservatives, are being formed to try to concentrate minds on gritty issues, and dump ‘metropolitan’ liberal ideas such as same-sex marriage and Lords reform. The challenge is how this right-wing energy can be harnessed to win votes in the centre ground, where elections are won and lost, as well as tempt UKIP defectors back to the fold. Cameron moved to the Right in his reshuffle and reassured his troops at the Conference, however with the gaffe on energy… Read Article > Victory on a Plate? As Team GB goes for gold – and the UK focuses on winners and losers – press attention is turning back to politics and the condition of the Coalition. Like a fragile cracked vase, the Coalition is in a state of unstable equilibrium. It has the appearance of solidity, until some outside stress shatters the illusion of stability. Another large crack in the Coalition has just appeared, the largest so far. No-one can foresee how long the Coalition will hold together. Has some pressure been released in the system so allowing another extended period of outward calm, or is this the penultimate crack, creating a fatal flaw? Given the external economic turbulence, it is difficult to see external political pressure easing off. Paradoxically the one source of strength… Read Article >
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