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Lodestone Communications
Face Off In our note last week – centred on the result of the Hartlepool by-election and emerging English local results – we highlighted the structural shift occurring in Labour’s vote and drew a comparison with post-Indyref Scottish politics. Now that Scotland’s results are in, that comparison is made even more worrying for Keir Starmer and his team. Labour is not making a come-back in Scotland. They are going backwards – still. And whilst Nicola Sturgeon has failed to win an overall majority, the achievement of the SNP last week remains momentous. A fourth election victory in a row – despite a year of scandal and vicious internecine conflict – is not to be sniffed at.   For the time being, the consequences of that result are continuity. Nicola Sturgeon… Read Article > Shape Shifter There’s no way of dressing up these results – as they continue to trickle in – as anything other than a disaster for Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. Yes, the vaccine programme has given the Government a boost. No, he’s not had long to establish himself in the public imagination (and in the most trying of circumstances). But those are excuses that are insufficient to the magnitude of the problem.   The Conservative Party has been in Government for over a decade. They have presided over the collapse of the public realm through disinvestment and austerity. They have fought each other tooth and nail over Europe. They are mired in allegations of sleaze and their track record in managing the country through a national crisis has been… patchy, shall… Read Article > Former Tory campaigner is the latest to join Lodestone’s growing team Lodestone Communications is pleased to announce that Harriet Kaye, a former campaign consultant for the Conservative Party, has joined the team as it looks to grow its public affairs team and enhance its campaigning offering.   Harriet brings a detailed and nuanced understanding of the Conservative Party, with significant campaigning experience. She has experience in digital strategy, reputation management and crisis communications, gained during her extensive work on two Conservative mayoral elections and the 2019 general election campaign at Conservative headquarters. She has a strong network of Westminster contacts, helping to maximise public affairs impact for clients.   Prior to joining Lodestone, Harriet worked at the research, advisory and campaign company, CT Group looking after a range of corporate and political clients. Harriet graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in politics.   David Wild,… Read Article > Bad Blood There is a war being fought at the heart of Downing Street and it is being fought on multiple fronts. In some ways the sheer level of mess involved helps the Prime Minister. When a lot of mud is being thrown, most of it misses its target or – at least – fails to stick. On the other hand, eventually, the sheer weight of the stuff can weigh even the nimblest of combatants down.   Let’s run through the mud, so far. First, the Prime Minister stands accused of ‘governing by text’ – fixing issues for those lucky enough to have his private number stored on their phone (James Dyson, the Saudi Crown Prince, goodness only knows who else). Second, his Government is engulfed in a lobbying scandal… Read Article > Lodestone bolsters sustainability practice in the run up to COP26 Political strategy and corporate communications agency Lodestone has accelerated its growth plans in 2021 after securing a number of client wins that has seen them expand their footprint in the energy and environment sectors as part of their focus on sustainability, one of four key areas that Lodestone specialise in, alongside health, technology and education. In recent weeks Lodestone has begun working with the Association for Decentralised Energy, who are the leading energy trade body focused on achieving the ‘net zero’ emissions target in the UK, and the Copper Mark, a new assurance framework to promote responsible practices and demonstrate the copper industry’s contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As part of Lodestone’s growth in this area of the business, they have also won contracts with… Read Article >
Waiting for my man In our pre-budget note, we said that Rishi Sunak’s ideological and political interests were pulling in different directions and that – therefore – relative stasis was the likely result. And to a certain extent, the Chancellor proved us right this week. His budget was clothed in the rhetoric of pain and ‘tough choices’ but was, in the end, more a holding pattern than a programme.   Neither of the big ticket tax rises in this budget are immediate. Companies won’t have to pay higher Corporation Tax until 2023 and the freeze on income tax thresholds will only come in after they rise as planned in April. No-one is being hammered to pay back the money we have borrowed to help us make it through the pandemic – or… Read Article > Meet me at the crossroads On Monday, the Prime Minister laid out his plan for unlocking the country. It was not – obviously – the first time that he had made such an announcement. We had one in Spring last year. We had one in late Autumn. But this time, it was different. On those occasions, Johnson made big, boosterish promises about everything going back to normal on a specific date. He seems, finally, to have learned from past error. We now have a roadmap, with data points determining each next step rather than being driven by arbitrary dates. It is a more cautious approach. But it is also less likely to dramatically fail – with the consequence of the unlocking having to be hastily undone – because it is staggered. Boris Johnson… Read Article > The Angel and The Gambler A lot has been written about the character of Boris Johnson – both the one that he plays and the one that he is. Our Prime Minister possesses personality, an attribute not immediately obvious in all of his predecessors, and naturally much commentary therefore gravitates to discussing that personality. It is what he sells and it is what electors – first in London, then in the ‘Red Wall’ – have bought, to some extent. But whilst personality is useful for selling things – policies, perspectives – it is not a replacement for those things in and of itself. And that could be a bit of a problem for the Government. It is too early, of course, to consign the COVID crisis to history and to move on entirely.… Read Article > That’s me in the corner In politics, one of the benefits of winning – and being in government – is that your successes are there for all to see. The downside, of course, is that so are your failings. Our current Government has enjoyed some successes over the last year or so and has certainly worn its failures on its proverbial sleeve. But this week, knowing as we all do what the Government has been up to and not up to over Christmas and New Year, we will focus instead on Her Majesty’s Opposition. Sir Keir Starmer won the Labour leadership at a time of crisis – for his country and for his party. And he won it with a positional, intentional strategy of absence. Yes, we know about his father’s toolmaking and… Read Article > Lodestone announces formation of Health Advisory Unit Political strategy and corporate communications agency Lodestone has launched its Health Advisory Unit after a series of successful client wins that has seen it significantly strengthen its presence in the UK health sector. Led by Chairman David Wild, Lodestone’s Health Advisory Unit recently added the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) to its portfolio of health clients, alongside the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust which it began working with in 2019. As part of Lodestone’s remit working with UHB, David sits on a key Committee, alongside other NHS executives advising on their Improvement Alliance with Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. Lodestone’s expansion into the health industry has been further bolstered recently by its work with the tech firm Fimatix, who have launched an independent… Read Article >
And it hurts with every heartbeat Some people are very good in a crisis. They keep their heads, leap into action, work effectively despite finding themselves at the centre of chaos. Think of those members of the ordinary public who tackle would-be terrorists. Or the hundreds of people every year who perform lifesaving CPR on perfect strangers. Or those amongst us who refused to panic buy toilet roll in March. Rishi Sunak is good in a crisis. His furlough scheme was unprecedented, massive, speedy and genuinely lifesaving for millions of workers. His persona – geeky, strangely attractive, energetic and calm – reassured millions more as our economy stood on a cliff edge. His flexibility to swiftly changing events has been deft and appropriately non-ideological for a man steering the nation through unforeseen calamity. But… Read Article > My heart will go on As the Titanic slipped below the waves, its in-house string quartet famously carried on playing regardless. History doesn’t tell us the tune but it’s a safe enough bet that they didn’t learn a new one for the occasion. Something timeless, one imagines. Well known. Comforting. Over at Number 10, an old familiar has been strumming away this week. Fifty thousand people have died in the UK from the novel coronavirus, to date. We are weeks away from crashing out of our transition arrangements with the EU – with no deal nor plan yet in view. The Treasury is overstretched, the NHS at breaking point and our closest ally just elected a President who thinks that our current Prime Minister racially abused his old boss. But never mind all… Read Article > Windmills of Your Mind Anyone who has ever been responsible for the well-being of a toddler will recognise the dynamic all too well. “If you carry on refusing to eat your lunch you will have to go on to the naughty step”… child refuses to eat lunch… child is astonished to find themselves on the naughty step. The big difference between a toddler and Jeremy Corbyn, though, is that a toddler is capable – over time – of learning that actions have consequences. The former Labour leader shows no sign of similar personal growth. Yesterday saw the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party. The report is damning – despite what some diehard Corbynites are claiming – and it confirms that under Jeremy… Read Article > Boulevard of broken dreams Nature abhors a vacuum, politics even more so. The net effect of our Government’s efforts to tackle coronavirus is just that: a vacuum. The track and trace infrastructure that doesn’t exist; the tiered lockdowns that neither effectively fight the spread of the disease nor enable economic recovery; the moving of the goalposts so that sacrifices to ‘protect the NHS’ are now sacrifices that are necessary ‘until there is a vaccine’. We have a surfeit of policy but an absence of purpose. And, as night follows day, into that space rush alternative wielders of power. COVID-19 attacks the body’s central respiratory system and – in doing so – can cause multiple organ failure as more peripheral parts of the body are starved of oxygen. Similarly, it has attacked and… Read Article > Do you wanna be in my gang? It is human instinct to desire and to imagine that problems be both surmountable and finite. Whilst we may enjoy the thrilling quasi-pornography of apocalyptic fiction – and whilst we might generally accept, deep down, the fact of universal mortality – humans aren’t very good at seeing existential problems for what they are. That is one reason why progress on preventing or mitigating climate change has been both slow and inadequate. It is also the reason that policies of inaction – appeasement, for example – have often proved more popular at the time than more ‘rip the plaster off’ courses of action. In this vein, on COVID-19, it looks very much as though our Government has proven once again that there is no human weakness to which it… Read Article >
Exit Wounds The thing about sticking plasters is that they give a wound the chance to heal whilst keeping out contagion. But if the wound is too deep, too big or already infected then… all a sticking plaster does is cover up the severity of the problem. Over the next few months, we will discover whether the Government’s various sticking plasters were sufficient to help Britain to heal the COVID wound. As they are peeled off, we will get a clearer view – is it a healthy scab under there or is it a gangrenous mess? The furlough scheme is the most acute example. The word ‘unprecedented’ has been overused in 2020 (global pandemics, for example, are absolutely not unprecedented – they are a regular feature of human existence). But… Read Article > School's Out As our politicians head off on their summer holidays and Boris Johnson celebrates his one year anniversary as PM, now feels like a good time to reflect on what has happened this past year. It is traditional, of course, for school children to receive a report on their achievements, attitude and behaviour at the end of term. Or, at least, it was traditional – back when we were a country that had things like schools. So here is Lodestone’s report on our Prime Minister. Boris has not had a good year and seems to have struggled to live up to the fresh demands of his new, more senior position. Whilst he applied himself with discipline to the task of becoming Head Boy, he has not exercised the same… Read Article > Money For Nothing Rishi Sunak framed his statement on economic recovery today as a question ‘not just of economics, but of values’. The Chancellor is so committed to Britain building back from the pandemic that he will pay for your double glazing, guarantee your kid a job and even buy you dinner (Monday to Wednesday, to a value of £5 per head, etc). And he wants everyone to know that whilst he is going to keep spending money he is not profligate – so he is going to end the furlough scheme in October as planned. And, by the way, here’s some tax cuts to boost demand and buy off the Tory right. Something for everyone, basically. And delivered with the remarkable, un-self-conscious sincerity that is becoming Sunak’s trade-mark. Will it… Read Article > We Built This City “We are doubling down on levelling up – if you can make sense of that.” So spoke our Prime Minister in his ‘New Deal’ speech this week. He read it out. From a script that he wrote. So he knew that the message made little sense but he went with it anyway because he liked the sound of it. Not a bad allegory for the contents of the speech, that. There were at least three overarching messages – ‘A New Deal’, ‘Build, Build, Build’, and ‘Build Back Better’. It’s not that these are contradictory, per se. It’s just that normally one would have a process and some editing in order to narrow your relaunch message into, well, a message. The truth is that it all felt rather slapped… Read Article > He's Behind You! With personal approval polling to rival mid-nineties Blair, it is easy to get excited about Keir Starmer’s prospects of becoming the next Prime Minister. But, in politics, excitement is often just another word for distraction. The path to power for Starmer is one ridden with pot holes and pratfalls, all designed to trip up even the smoothest of opposition leaders. And the truth is that the most likely next Prime Minister is not the leader of the Labour Party – whose chances of ending up in Number 10, at some point, are probably hovering around the 30% mark at the moment. Starmer needs to fight – and win – a General Election in order to ascend to the highest office. For Tory MPs who aspire to power, the… Read Article >
Lodestone Account Manager named in PR Week 30 under 30 PR Week has today unveiled its annual list of PR stars of the future which includes Lodestone’s Jo Dalton. The list of high performing professionals in their 20’s has been complied following a competitive judging process. Co-founder and Director, Client Services, Fran O’Leary said: “Congratulations to Jo who joined our team from the Office of the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party last year. Jo has shown a natural flair for consultancy and we are delighted that she has been recognised in these prestigious awards.” PR Week will profile all of the 30 next month in the July issue of the industry magazine. Read Article > This is America In his inauguration speech, Donald Trump promised that he would end the ‘American carnage’ that he and his supporters perceived as the ruination of their nation. It is not a partisan or particularly controversial observation to say that if this was the objective of his presidency then success has not been forthcoming. The rolling street battles that have erupted in American cities from coast to coast are deeply unsettling. They have smashed the carapace of civility in American public life and exposed the rifts and hurt that define its politics. Racism, violence, deprivation, guns, flags and paramilitary-style policing – the very definition of carnage, a uniquely American brew. What does this mean for Trump? Well, the rioting and the tear gas and the bullets rain down at a… Read Article > Lodestone appoints Non-Exec Director Lodestone has today appointed ex PricewaterhouseCoopers Partner, Stuart Warriner as a Non-Executive Director. Stuart brings extensive board level experience in corporate finance and M&A to the agency. Stuart Warriner is a Managing Director at GCA Altium, the European business of GCA, a global investment bank and a former Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers. He is also a Non-Executive Director of The Pebble Group plc. David Wild, Co-founder & Chairman of Lodestone, said “We are delighted to welcome Stuart – who brings a wealth of experience – as a Non-Executive Director to our Board. In these challenging times, we are looking to build resilience and strengthen our business for the long-term. Stuart has a stellar track record in building businesses in a purposeful way. We look forward to working with him… Read Article > Thinnest Of Air Authority, in politics, is like oxygen in respiration. It is essential and invisible and whilst you can’t physically see the lack of it, you can sure feel it. This Government is experiencing a crisis of authority. It’s ability to enforce its will is ebbing – despite its solid parliamentary majority – and this is a problem because this subsidence is occurring just at the most complex and tricky moment so far of the COVID-19 pandemic. Why is this happening? There is of course, no single reason. It does not help that the Government’s senior adviser has been caught breaking (at the very least) the spirit of the lockdown designed by (in part) his own hand. And it doesn’t help that teaching unions have decided to oppose the Government’s… Read Article > The political response to COVID-19: Views from across Europe This week we were joined by our affiliates and associates in London, Italy and France to discuss the political response to Covid-19. Watch the full event below.   The panel included: Andrew Gimson, Contributing Editor to ConservativeHome, author of Boris: The Adventures of Boris Johnson and Lodestone Associate Guillaume Labbez, President of Commstrat and Lodestone French Affiliate Andrea Morbelli, Head of Public Affairs at Open Gate Italia and Lodestone Italian Affiliate Chaired by Fran O’Leary, Director and Co-founder of Lodestone Keep up to date with our future events by following us on Linkedin @LodestoneCommunications Read Article >
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy The anniversary of VE day falls next Friday and the British public will be enjoying a well-earned bank holiday to celebrate (finally, a day at home for everyone!). You can expect an abundance of commentary relating our current crisis to that from which Britain emerged 75 years ago. Whereas most references to war in politics are crass and misjudged, it is fair to look at the impact of COVID-19 and see – in the scale and the economic cost – some valid comparisons. The gigantic new role of the state in our economy, the withdrawal of civil liberties, the mass mobilisation of public servants to focus on a single and existential issue – these things do not happen in peacetime. But the really interesting parallel, here, is not so much… Read Article > When the hurley-burley's done, When the battle's lost and won William Hague likes to tell a story about when he was the leader of the Conservative Party. He had popped in to Number 10 for a briefing from the PM on some issue or other that was felt to be non-political enough, and important enough, that the Leader of the Opposition deserved or needed to know about it. Whilst in with Blair, Hague mused aloud about which of the two had the tougher job. “Oh, you do” said Blair, quick as a flash. The lesson? Being the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is really, really hard. A lot of politicians believe that they should be king – that they have the skills or the values or the sheer ambition. They wield the knife to land the throne… Read Article > Phoenix From The Flame One reason for the lack of excitement about the results of Labour’s internal elections – to be announced on Saturday – is that it feels a bit like this is a Schrodinger’s poll. Keir Starmer is – and has been for months – Labour leader. Simultaneously, Keir Starmer is not – and never has been – Labour’s leader, yet. He has certainly won and the question is not who but by what margin and, then, what does it mean. And seeing as the announcement is therefore confirmatory rather than revelatory (and given that it is, thanks to Coronavirus, a virtual announcement at that) it is hard to get a fix on why anyone should be particularly preoccupied with it. Given everything else that is going on it feels to… Read Article > A change is gonna come Now is not the time to pretend to be an epidemiologist or a doctor or even a behavioural scientist. Amateur hour has passed, and what we need now is expertise. So, on whether the Government has the right plan when it comes to COVID19, this note will not offer an opinion. Yes, the interventions deployed by HMG are different in scale and apparent strategy to those undertaken by many other governments in other countries. But then again, it is not as though those approaches have yet been proven wholly successful either. It is too soon to say whether ours will work, and we are not about to offer a prediction one way or the other. What we are experts in is communications and political strategy. And on these… Read Article > Open call for input: How can the tech sector support the nation on COVID-19? With the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of us have found ourselves asking what can we do to help? The basics, of course are most important – washing your hands regularly, working from home where possible and social distancing where appropriate. On top of these measures, we have to look out for each other and support our communities where we can. We have the pleasure of acting as the secretariat of PICTFOR, The Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum, Westminster’s largest and most active APPG. As is evident from its name, PICTFOR focuses on three policy areas: internet, communications and technology, and exists to broaden the dialogue between the UK’s tech community and Westminster. The tech community has an outstanding capacity for responding to challenges, with… Read Article >
How to influence policy remotely With it looking increasingly likely that face to face meetings, for the next few months at least, will become a thing of the past, we have been considering how experts can continue to influence policy without ever needing to meet those making the decisions. The relationship between policy makers and policy influencers is mutually beneficial. Policy makers want access to good quality information to ensure that their policy is the best it can be; and the influencers want their expertise to be useful and help make the world a better place. In an environment that looks increasingly set to put physical space between people, how can we ensure that the knowledge needed to create good policy is still reaching the right people? Even before the need for a… Read Article > What You Want? Baby I Got It Most people don’t think about politics very much. And they certainly don’t have anything so bizarre as an ideology. They judge as they find. They don’t feel compelled to impose a philosophical framework, they don’t worry about inconsistencies or mild hypocrisies in their thinking and they are wary of hysteria and enthusiasm alike. These are the people this budget was for. And these people will – if they are paying attention at all – be happy with the shape of Rishi Sunak’s announcements. More money for infrastructure, new roads and bypasses, green stuff – yes – but enabling rather than banning. “Whatever it takes” in terms of helping the NHS to deal with COVID19 and a guarantee that you will be paid something if you have to self-isolate.… Read Article > Puppet on a String For most modern chancellors their budget – particularly their first budget – has been very much their day. What is their vision for the British economy? What are their priorities and their foibles? What element of their personality will characterise their approach to taxation and public spending – and how will that either reinforce or rub up against the personality and ambitions of the prime minister they serve? For Gordon Brown this held because he was seen as Blair’s rival. For George Osborne it held because he was seen as Cameron’s equal. For Hammond and for Darling because they were seen as their prime ministers’ foils. But for Rishi Sunak this does not hold – or, at least, not yet. Sunak is not a rival to his boss.… Read Article > Chasing The Crown In 1964, Harold Wilson sent his deputy leader, George Brown, to head up a brand-new Department of Economic Affairs. The idea was to finally break the stranglehold of the Treasury on British Government. Its duties would be split, its powers would be checked, its bureaucrats would be resubmitted to the authority of their political masters. The DEA was not long for this world. When Brown turned up he discovered that the Treasury civil servants in charge of equipping his new department had not given him much in the way of an office – let alone anything so helpful as a phone line. Whitehall’s immune system is strong. It rejected the DEA as a foreign body and in doing so preserved for another half century the dominance of the… Read Article > Do you feel lucky? It is over. At eleven o’clock this evening Britain formally leaves the European Union. Three years of uncertainty, of political chaos, of anger and distrust arrives at its conclusion. In Parliament Square a band will play and Brexiteers will toast the moment that they have been waiting and working for. Quietly, some who do not share that sense of excitement will mourn what they feel they have lost. Somewhere in between will be the many for whom this moment will bring only a sense of mild relief – and the hope that a catharsis will now come and, with it, some calm. In years to come, whatever the economic or social impact of Brexit, this period of British political history will serve as a case study for those… Read Article >
Reflections from Davos 2020 “Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight” said Greta Thunberg at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Speaking shortly after US President Donald Trump, who urged us to “reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of apocalypse”, Greta told attendees, “we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else”. This debate very much set the tone for this year’s climate-focused WEF. Lodestone was there to listen, learn and spot the trends that will be shaping corporate action and communications as we enter the new decade.   Outside the main hall, it was the big tech players who dominated – taking all the top spots on the promenade – but it was climate change that… Read Article > North Country Blues Johnson won a major majority over a month ago. He has now passed his Brexit Bill and secured Britain’s passage out of the EU in a week’s time. That’s an achievement, whether one agrees with the outcome or not, but it is not a programme of government. As some of this country’s obsession with Brexit recedes (rightly or wrongly as we enter time-limited negotiations on trade) other issues and challenges will rear their heads. The knotty problem of social care, to which the PM is committed to finding a solution; HS2, about which the Tory benches are already falling out; how to actually ‘level up’ the economies in the North and the Midlands whose voters gave him that famous majority in the first place. The Government claims that… Read Article > What to expect from a Johnson majority government Written by Lodestone Associate Andrew Gimson, Contributing Editor to ConservativeHome, and author of Boris: The Adventures of Boris Johnson Johnson will drive the government machine harder than it has ever been driven in peacetime, for he knows he has only four years to repay the trust placed in him by Labour voters in the Midlands, the North and Wales. He will begin by getting Brexit done by the end of January, after which he will press on with the negotiation of a new trading relationship with the European Union by the end of 2020. At the same time, he will pursue ambitious trade deals with the United States and many other countries. Protests from officials that such deals cannot be done quickly will result in the hiring of… Read Article > The Winner Takes It All In the end, it wasn’t even close. There is no way that Jeremy Corbyn can spin this as a victory in all but name. There is no ‘one last heave’ here. The Conservative Party has a majority – a big one, by modern standards – and our cycle of biannual elections looks to have been broken, finally. For better or for worse, Britain has a functioning Government again. So what happens now? Boris appears to have decided not to rock the boat too much until Brexit is passed. His Withdrawal Agreement will pass the Commons. We will leave – straight into transition, yes, but leave nonetheless – the EU on 31st January. A major reshuffle will wait till after that. There is trouble down the track on the… Read Article > It's Only Just Begun This evening, at 10pm, the BBC will publish the findings of its exit poll and we will have some idea of who this winter election has favoured. Based on analysis of interviews with people who have voted, the exit poll has proven very reliable at predicting the actual result in recent years. It was right that Cameron had won a majority, against expectations, in 2015. It was right that Theresa May had lost hers, against expectations, two years later. So whilst you can’t rely on its findings 100%, what that poll tells us before any of the actual seat results come in will probably be a fairly good picture of what our new Parliament will look like. For Boris Johnson, what it means to have ‘won’ is ruthlessly… Read Article >
GE2019: Spotlight on...Wales Spotlight on… Wales   Over the course of the most unpredictable General Election campaign of living memory, Lodestone will be producing a series of notes shining a spotlight on the regions and nations that will decide the outcome. This week, Wales. Wales will be a crucial battleground on Thursday, with a clutch of key Tory-Labour marginals in play and both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats hoping to break through in more Remain-orientated constituencies. The story of the Conservative comeback in Wales is longer and more plodding than that of Scotland but nonetheless is important to understanding the Tories’ return to being an election winning prospect. In 1997, the Conservative Party won no seats whatsoever in Wales, while in 2017 that had gone up to eight. Not a… Read Article > I Should Be So Lucky On election night in 2017 a senior member of Tory campaign staff threw up, in the office, as the Exit Poll figures flashed on a big screen. They had known – they had thought – that they were not going to get the stonking 100 seat majority that early polls had suggested. But they had also known – they had also thought – that, in spite of a difficult campaign, they were still on course for a healthy improvement on the 2015 result. They were wrong about that. Instead, the election returned a hung parliament. From that devastating – and for some, nausea inducing – result, all recent politics has flowed. It is why Theresa May did not manage to pass her Brexit deal, it is why Jeremy… Read Article > GE 2019: Spotlight on... the Midlands Over the course of the most unpredictable General Election campaign of living memory, Lodestone will be producing a series of notes shining a spotlight on the regions and nations that will decide the outcome. This week, the Midlands. The Midlands – traditionally divided into East and West regions – are a battleground at every British General Election but they are absolutely critical to Boris Johnson’s strategy for a majority in 2019. The Tories have always done reasonably well in this part of the country but, in 2019, big wins are necessary if Johnson wants a healthy majority and it is in Labour’s heartlands that such wins must come. Many of the seats being contested here form part of Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ – supposedly die-hard Labour constituencies upon which… Read Article > Vicious We could have called this week’s note ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’. Or, perhaps, ‘pride and prejudice’. But, honestly, they felt a bit on the nose. Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to apologise for his party’s antisemitism crisis – and the foot dragging over disciplining those who caused it – has been a cause of frustration and shame for many Labour activists. It has further outraged and frightened many British Jews. And it was just one terrible moment in a truly terrible half-hour interview. There is little point in labouring the issue. Three million people watched live as Andrew Neil took Jeremy Corbyn apart (on antisemitism, on spending commitments, on the tax burden of his manifesto). Another million or so will have caught up by now and many… Read Article > GE2019: Spotlight on...London Spotlight on… London   Over the course of the most unpredictable General Election campaign of living memory, Lodestone will be producing a series of notes shining a spotlight on the regions and nations that will decide the outcome. This week, London. London is Labour’s strongest region and they continue to enjoy a substantial lead over the Conservative Party in the capital city. In 2017 they won 49 of the 73 seats in the region, including a totemic (if less surprising than it might seem) victory in Kensington. With the most powerful figures in the Shadow Cabinet all representing London seats (Islington for Corbyn and Thornberry, Holborn for Starmer and Hackney for Abbott), Labour feels confident about their prospects of both holding seats and overturning narrow majorities in seats… Read Article >
Chaos From The Top Down It is taken as a given that most of the parties fielding candidates at this election would like to win it. For some, this wish is unlikely or impossible to come true. The SNP aren’t about to sweep the board in the rest of the UK. The Brexit Party aren’t standing everywhere. The Lib Dems talk a big game but… well, it would take something bigger than a new leader and a battle bus to win that many seats. This week the parties started to answer the question of ‘why’? Why do they want to win. What would they do with the power that they seek? Labour’s answer to this was published on Thursday. And it is not short of ambition. A dazzling array of policies, a dizzying… Read Article > GE2019: Spotlight on...   GE2019: Spotlight on… Yorkshire, the Humber and the North East Over the course of the most unpredictable General Election campaign of living memory, Lodestone will be producing a series of notes shining a spotlight on the regions and nations that will decide the outcome. This week, Yorkshire, the Humber and the North East. If you ask any Conservative Party adviser where they hope to pick up the seats they need to achieve a majority then the three regions of Yorkshire, the Humber and the North East will crop up. Why? For two primary reasons: One, they are some of the most Brexity places in Britain (57.7% Leave in Yorkshire and the Humber, 58% in the North East); Two, the Conservative Party’s vote share in these regions has… Read Article > Inside the Conservative Party Campaign Written by Lodestone Associate Andrew Gimson, Contributing Editor to ConservativeHome, and author of Boris: The Adventures of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson once said there is method in Donald Trump’s madness. The same could be said of Johnson’s general election campaign. He has exploded the assumption, held as an article of faith by our political class, that one of the chief duties of a professional politician is to avoid making gaffes. Johnson makes gaffes all the time. In the last few days he has demonstrated, while receiving an unfavourable reception at the Yorkshire floods, his inability to use a domestic mop. And there are those who maintain, after seeing his most recent party political broadcast, that he does not know how to make a cup of tea. But that… Read Article > Money (That’s What I Want) In this election there’s a lot going on but not a lot actually happening. You see it in the politics, where this week the biggest arguments have been about where parties *shouldn’t* stand. You see it in the policy, where the parties seem set on contesting this vote with spending commitments so big that many economists wonder whether it would even be possible for Government to spend the sums promised, let alone to raise them. So much noise, plenty of signal, a strange and fundamental feeling of unreality. Let’s start with the politics. Nigel Farage’s decision to pull his candidates in Tory-held seats but not in Lab-Con marginals is – on the face of it – a confused one. After all, it is the Leave vote that the… Read Article > GE2019: Spotlight on...Scotland GE2019: Spotlight on… Scotland Over the course of the most unpredictable General Election campaign of living memory, Lodestone will be producing a series of notes shining a spotlight on the regions and nations that will decide the outcome. First up, Scotland.   In 2017, Scottish voters threw Theresa May a lifeline by returning thirteen Tory MPs – up from just one in 2015. This result saved her premiership and gave her the numbers to make a deal with the DUP viable. These gains also demonstrated the impact of the Scottish Conservatives charismatic then Leader, Ruth Davidson. Paired with a Lib Dem fightback (they went from one MP to four and Jo Swinson, current Lib Dem leader, regained her seat after losing it in 2015) and Scottish Labour doing… Read Article >
Road to Nowhere When you ask for directions in some remoter parts of the U.K. the response you might get is an unhelpful “well, I wouldn’t start from here”. After a week of official campaigning for 2019’s Winter General Election, that’s how the two main parties feel too. First up we had a pre-launch gaffe from Brexiteer sweetheart and Tory Cabinet Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg; who claimed that anyone with common sense would have ignored the advice of the fire brigade and fled Grenfell Tower. Rees-Mogg swiftly apologised but his insult was compounded by his colleague and brother in ERG arms – Andrew Bridgen – leaping to his defence and rubbing salt in grieving families’ wounds. Added to the forced resignation of the Welsh Secretary (over a rape trial scandal involving an… Read Article > Ex Tom Watson Aide joins Lodestone Lodestone Communications is delighted to announce that Jo Dalton, Tom Watson’s former Political Secretary, has joined the team.  The move further strengthens Lodestone’s Labour offering as Brexit remains unresolved and the country faces an election on 12th December. Jo brings a detailed understanding of the current Labour Party and large campaigning experience. She joins Lodestone after five years as Political Secretary to Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party where she acted as an adviser and gate-keeper. In this role, Jo managed relationships with the Parliamentary Labour Party, Labour HQ, Labour councillors and across the DCMS brief, coordinating the Shadow DCMS team and stakeholders. Jo worked on Tom Watson’s successful Deputy Leadership campaign and played a key role in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections and 2016 EU referendum campaign. Fran O’Leary, Co-founder &… Read Article > Lodestone Communications and British Poultry Council’s campaign shortlisted for PRCA Award Lodestone Communications is delighted to announce that the Food On Every Table campaign, launched in partnership with the British Poultry Council (BPC), has been shortlisted for the PRCA’s Public Affairs Award for Best Trade Body Campaign of the Year 2019. The campaign was launched in response to the government’s announcement earlier this year that DEFRA were commissioning Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon Restaurants and the Sustainable Restaurant Association to conduct an independent review into this country’s food system. The BPC and Lodestone were keen to have a positive impact on the first National Food Strategy in 75 years. Currently 8.4 million people in the UK are still ‘too poor to eat’ – this is unacceptable. Lodestone were therefore delighted to launch this important and timely campaign to change… Read Article > Casino Boogie As an early Christmas present, Parliament has granted the British public their say. On who will form the next Government, on what will happen on Brexit, on which MPs will spend Boxing Day filling out their redundo applications and which will be clinking champagne flutes with a sigh of relief. Be grateful, voters, for your time has come. Of course, for many opponents of the Government this is not quite the public vote they wanted. Die-hard supporters of a second Brexit referendum have long sought to avoid a General Election on the basis that the deadlock in the current Parliament provided an opportunity to instead resolve the European question through a plebiscite. They had some pretty good logic backing them up – one, there is no guarantee that… Read Article > Woah, We’re Halfway There, Woah, We’re Living On A Prayer Boris Johnson has finally won a vote as Prime Minister. It is his first, having lost every vote he had previously brought. But whatever comfort brought by persuading Parliament to back his deal – by a surprisingly comfortable margin of thirty – was short-lived. The House then immediately rejected the Bill’s Programme Motion (the part thatgoverns the schedule of debate and scrutiny), thereby stripping the Government of its ability to force the legislation through at pace. That matters because the coalition that delivered a majority for him tonight is unstable and his best bet for holding it together was a sense of momentum. The last time this happened was when the coalition attempted reform of the House of Lords. Deprived of their Programme Motion, the Government saw its… Read Article >
Life is a Cabaret Boris Johnson recalled Parliament on a Saturday because, for all his faults and flaws, he is a talented political dramatist. Having secured a deal – remarkably, it has to be acknowledged – the Prime Minister wanted to pass it in grand style. Or to be thwarted in a glare of publicity. Either way, ‘super saturday’ was supposed to be a moment of narrative catharsis for Parliament and for the country. But, stage left, a villain waited in the wings. Sir Oliver Letwin chose a particularly cruel method by which to undermine Johnson. He didn’t vote against the deal (indeed, he has pledged to vote for it). Instead, he sucked the drama out of the show. The real impact of his amendment was simply to delay the meaningful vote… Read Article > This Ole House The overwhelming impression of many onlookers, left as an imprint after both main party conferences, is one of unreality. The holding pattern on Brexit is responsible for this strange dislocation. You instinctively feel that something has to give soon and that will frame everything for a generation. Then something gives… a PM goes, we have a new PM… but still we circle around waiting for something else to give… The fundamentals of the constitutional plumbing of the UK are laid bare after being excavated by lawyers and procedural authorities bringing into the light the Crown and its relationship with both political power and its democratic legitimacy. PM Johnson is relying on the fact of having been asked by the Queen to be PM to give him legitimacy with… Read Article > Gangsta's Paradise “Nice constitutional democracy you’ve got there… shame if anything happened to it.” Not a direct quote from the Prime Minister, obviously. But a flavour of the sentiment, if you listen to the anger and worry expressed by many opposition MPs and some backbench Tories. Protection rackets work by backing victims into a corner, by insinuating violence and by demonstrating that you’ve got the heavies to back it up, needs be. The worry for Brexit-sceptic MPs is that this is the Prime Minister’s strategy now; literally or figuratively depending on who you speak to. But let’s take a step back for a moment, a break from the breathlessly ever changing day to day, and consider the bigger picture. What has actually happened specifically to affect the variable likelihood of… Read Article > Time to engage with Labour Labour policy is increasingly important – not just because a general election is imminent but because the old divisions of left and right are breaking down. Good policies from one party are stolen by the other. One of the most misunderstood areas is Labour’s vision for business. To shed some light on this, Lodestone recently held an event in partnership with the London Stock Exchange Group featuring Shadow BEIS Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey MP in conversation with Lodestone Co-Founder and Chairman, David Wild. The event covered Labour’s priorities and what their policies could mean for the future of the City of London and UK business more widely. The main message quickly became clear: Labour has a bold plan to transform the UK economy. The cornerstone of this plan is… Read Article > We’re The Kids In America What if you don’t want to be a ‘Prime Minister for all the country’? What if you’ve worked out that you don’t need to be? What if you’ve looked across the Atlantic and observed that late stage capitalism + creaky democraticinfrastructure = polarisation being a winning strategy? That seems to be the equation that spat out Boris Johnson’snew cabinet this evening. For thirty years, the law of British politics has been this – the party that occupies the centre of our politics occupies Downing Street. Prime Minister Johnson believes that law has been unwritten. He is not following the path set by the last Conservative Leader to win an election, his old school frenemy David Cameron. He is not calculating his everymove to engage and seduce Lib Dem and… Read Article >
King of Pain Are you feeling ‘energetic’? Are you a ‘dude’? Are you ready to let sunshine rule the day? In a surprise to no-one, Boris Johnson has won the leadership of the Conservative Party and, with it, almost certainly the premiership of Britain. His victory speech was an exhortation to optimism and vim. Perhaps meant to reassure himself as much as anyone else. Because the fact of his triumph does not buy Boris that much in the way of breathing space – reality is closing in even from the off. That said, the margin of victory was more than convincing and more than his campaign team had privately briefed – although expectation management surely played a part there. What does the quantum of the landslide tell us? A number of… Read Article > We All Live In A Yellow Submarine So there we are, there is now only one major British political party to have never been led by a woman. Jo Swinson has won her party’s top prize and will lead the Lib Dems at what is an unexpectedly exciting time for the not-quite-third party. She beat the other candidate, Ed Davey, handsomely – on a prospectus of cooperation with other Remain parties and with a refreshingly honest approach to telling the membership what they are wrong about. She has a mandate to reform the party and to work with others to seek to reshape the political centre-ground. And her election will further embarrass those in Labour already ashamed of their party’s problem electing women to leadership roles.  The leadership of the Liberal Democrats has not –… Read Article > I Believe in Miracles There are two separate major doubts niggling the Johnson campaign. They are linked but they are not the same. The first concerns Mr. Johnson’s private life. Or his ‘character’ as his colleagues have decided to call it. Recent events – at the home where he lodges with his partner – have resurrected questions over whether the particularities of his relationship to domesticity are well suited to the exposure and expectations of high office. There are those who say, with some conviction, that it should not matter. And there are many who argue, with some evidence, that (for Boris, at least) it does not matter, in the end. But all the same, there exists a part of the Tory brain that is instinctively mortified at the idea of the… Read Article > Wacky Races One of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt will be installed as our next Prime Minister at the end of July. Conservative MPs have had their say – whittling ten candidates down to two – and now the power is in the hands of Conservative members. Roughly 160,000 party card holders will have the chance to vote, on their say-so the new resident of Downing Street will be selected. So what will happen? Well, it is overwhelmingly likely that the membership will back Boris. It was always the first stages of this idiosyncratic race that were supposed to be tricky for the former Foreign Secretary. His colleagues, those he has worked with and who know him best, are far more sceptical about Boris’ charms than are the members. ‘Operation… Read Article > Oh What A Circus, Oh What A Show The show is over, the big top is emptying, and the would-be lion tamer is back off to his caravan to lick his wounds. Rory Stewart has had an incredible leadership run. He only joined the cabinet a month ago (a knock-on beneficiary of Gavin Williamson’s implosion) but in a few short weeks Stewart has made himself one to watch. Via a canny, pleasingly eccentric social media game and an openness to the public, and to debate, that felt refreshing to many, the International Development Secretary seizes the moment. He deployed his outsider status as a strength. He took on his opponents directly. He cast himself as Cassandra, telling the truths that no-one else would say and that Tory MPs didn’t want to hear. It worked, up to… Read Article >
Inside the leadership race Written by Lodestone Associate Andrew Gimson, Contributing Editor to ConservativeHome, and author of Boris: The Adventures of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson’s critics within the parliamentary Conservative party, who are numerous, have made such a hash of opposing his leadership bid that they now admit he can only defeat himself. They looked around for a Stop Boris candidate, and nine came forward. That was an absurdly large number, and so far all they have managed to do is to destroy each other’s chances. In the first round of voting by Tory MPs, Johnson got 114 votes, while the next three candidates managed 107 between them. On Sunday night, the five anti-Johnson candidates who had survived the first round turned up for the Channel 4 debate, and found themselves engaged in a… Read Article > Flushed Away You know that an event has not gone well for a politician if they spend it hiding in a toilet to avoid the press. It’s an old trick and effective, in its way – but it isn’t a tactic steeped in dignity. Pity, therefore, Nigel Farage who swept into Peterborough expecting a triumph and whose night ended with him locked in the gents refusing to speak to the TV crews. On paper, it was not so bad a night for the Brexit Party that it demanded this game of hide and seek. After all, for a new party to go from creation to coming second in a by-election in less than a year is quite something. One imagines the remnants of Change UK would give their eye for… Read Article > Time is running out to find a viable Stop Boris candidate Written by Andrew Gimson, a Lodestone Associate, biographer of Boris Johnson and contributing editor to ConservativeHome There comes a point in most selection battles when voters stampede towards the winning side, and thereby convert a modest advantage into a decisive victory. Conservative MPs may already be quite near that moment of decision. For although in an ideal world most of them would rather not be led by Boris Johnson,in the fallen world which they actually inhabit, they have failed as yet to find a viable ‘Stop Boris’ candidate. Michael Gove is the most formidable of his opponents. He has won golden opinions as a departmental minister (though not from teachers or, more recently, from farmers). His winding-up speech in the no confidence debate in January demonstrated his gifts… Read Article > War, War, What Is It Good For? In the old days we would just have had a civil war and been done with it. The truth is that the polarisation of the British demos is getting worse, not better, as time since the Brexit referendum passes. The two sides are roughly evenly matched – and they are entrenching at the extremes of their positions. Three years ago almost everybody who advocated for Brexit supported a negotiated deal of some sort. Now a party that indignantly demands a ‘WTO Brexit’ – No Deal in new branding – has comfortably topped the polls in a national election. On the other side, parties with the most clear cut Remain messages hoovered up votes. The Lib Dems ran on the frank and pretty uncomplicated slogan ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ and… Read Article > Something Better Change Nigel Farage has felled another Tory Prime Minister. This time before the results of the vote were even announced. The erstwhile UKIP Leader has been the tail that wagged the Tory dog for years now. It was his European elections victory in 2014 that sealed Cameron’s fate, forcing him to place a referendum pledge at the centre of the 2015 General Election manifesto and setting events in train that would lead to his resignation just a year later. Having won that referendum, and dispatched Cameron, Farage claimed that he was ‘retiring’. In truth, he was plotting his next move. The product of that careful plotting – the Brexit Party – has enjoyed stunning success. It has cannibalised UKIP. It has forced Theresa May from office. All that and… Read Article >
Animal Farm All elections are equal but some elections are more equal than others. Take the round of locals earlier this month. Does it matter that both the Tories and Labour were punished at the polls? Of course. Does it matter as much as the General Election result in 2017? Of course not. How, then, should we assess the relative importance of the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections? Well the first thing to consider is this – elections vary not only in the quantum of their import but also in the type of significance that they play. In 2005 the Conservative Party lost their third election in a row but made progress and gained seats, as did the Lib Dems. This did not alter the shape of the Government or the… Read Article > Will the Circle be Unbroken? This was not supposed to happen. Theresa May’s timeline for Brexit was constructed backwards from the upcoming European elections – with the express intention of avoiding them. Article 50 provides a two year window for negotiating exit. Add on a few months contingency – you know, to iron out the details – and a March target for Brexit looked pretty reasonable. After all, a Parliament that voted to trigger Article 50 by an overwhelming majority was hardly going to then refuse to vote through the resulting deal for three months, was it? Spoiler alert – they did. And so, because we are still members of the European Union and because citizens of European Union members have an absolute legal right to representation in the European Union’s Parliament, elections… Read Article > Into The Woods Parliamentarians were today held hostage in the Commons on a day when they had planned to be in their constituencies, talking to their constituents. Of course, for some MPs this is a blessing. Their constituents bang on about Brexit almost as much as their colleagues, and as with their colleagues solutions are in small supply but robust certainties are abundant. Nonetheless, a Friday trapped in the chamber whilst the sun shines on far Right activists baying for blood just a hop, skip and jump away is not fun. Particularly given that today’s vote was – in the Government’s own parlance and at their own perverse insistence – ‘meaningless’. Speaker Bercow refused to let them bring the whole shebang back for a third time of asking and so the… Read Article > The White Cliffs of Dover Remember when ‘no deal was better than a bad deal’? Or, briefly, when ‘my deal is better than no deal’? Well, now, it’s ‘my deal is better than another year of talking about all this with the very strong possibility that we then just give up on the whole thing anyway’. And who knows, maybe this latest line will work where all the others have failed. Thanks to this week’s votes we know an awful lot about what Parliament is against. They are against ‘no deal’ in any circumstances. They are against the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. They are against May’s deal and against a referendum. What are Parliament for? Well, finally last night we have a sort of half answer – they are for a delay, for now. By… Read Article > Burning Down The House Well, there we are. This note would usually begin with a knowing and self-regarding pop culture reference that would act as the playful mood music for the analysis that follows. But, honestly, who has the time or the inclination for whimsy at this moment of genuine – if also breathtakingly dull – national crisis? So instead, this note will simply lay out where we are and what our options are. The Prime Minister has once again failed to secure her Withdrawal Agreement. Its fate was sealed earlier today when her Attorney General (a lawyer first, a politician second) confirmed the obvious – that the United Kingdom had failed to secure a unilateral option to leave the Northern Irish ‘backstop’. Of course, the UK was never going to secure… Read Article >
Seven Nation Army It is not easy to leave a political party, least of all when you are an elected representative of that party. For a start, if you are an MP, you have given a great deal of your time and your energy to the movement you represent. You have canvassed many thousands of homes, delivered leaflets in the pouring rain, been shouted at and abused: because you believe in what you are doing. Secondly, but interlinked, the party has given you so much of what you have. In the end, you know that it was the rosette you wore as much as your hard work that got you into Parliament. Leaving means abandoning both the investment that you have made and the protection that the party gives you. So,… Read Article > Time After Time If a tree falls in a forest but there is no one around to hear it fall, does it make a sound? Last night’s vote created a sort of Schrodinger’s defeat for the Government. It both is and is not important. Or, rather, it is completely insignificant legally but potentially momentous politically. In law, the situation is unchanged. The UK will automatically leave the EU on the 29th of March – deal or no deal – and nothing that Parliament has voted for or against since it endorsed the triggering of Article 50 has changed that fact. This includes last night’s defeat of the Government’s neutral progress update and the support two weeks ago for Caroline Spelman’s anti no deal vote. Unless and until Parliament elects to vote… Read Article > Nothing Yesterday was – optically, at least – the best day the Prime Minister has had in ages. In years, in fact. For the first time since the 2017 General Election Theresa May got her own way on something Brexit-related in Parliament. Leave aside, for now, the potential meaninglessness of it all. Forget, if you can, that this victory was built on fantasies and that it will almost certainly unravel in the coming days. Focus, instead, on how it looks and how it feels. Most close observers had expected Yvette Cooper and Nick Boles’ amendment (forcing the Government’s hand on Article 50 suspension in the event of No Deal) to pass if Labour whipped for it. Labour did whip for it. And yet it failed. Why? In part, because… Read Article > So What Happens Now? Another day, another knock. But Mrs May plows on. Thanks to Yvette Cooper she has been defeated on a Finance Bill (the first PM to lose such a vote in forty years) and thanks to Dominic Grieve she has lost control of the Parliamentary timetable (in part because of procedural mischief from Speaker Bercow). Her strategy is left in tatters. But the Prime Minister still believes there is a way through. Why? Well because she has always got by before. The implications of her double defeat are real and significant. Cooper’s amendment means that No Deal spending is severely restricted and is no longer in the gift of the Executive. Grieve’s intervention restricts May still further, shortening her ‘time to think’ after the meaningful vote from a month… Read Article > Slow Train Coming The ‘trolley dilemma’ is one of philosophy’s most enduring and famous thought-experiments. You will have heard of it. A train is careering down the tracks towards a group of children and the brakes are not working. You are stood at the switch – by pulling a lever you can divert the train and save the kids. But on the other track is stood a mechanic, going about his work and completely oblivious. Do you exchange his life for those of the children by intervening? Variations on this morbid little game abound, each helping to illustrate one dilemma or another. In some the children are replaced by a gaggle of reprobates and the mechanic by a Mother Theresa-esque doer of good works. Sometimes the choice is between one person… Read Article >
You Keep Me Hangin' On The first rule of politics is to learn how to count. So said the ultimate politicians’ politician President Johnson. And he was right, of course. Politics is a bit about ideas and a lot about maths. Either you can carry a constituency – out in the country, in the House or in your own party – or you can’t. Turns out that May’s naysayers in the ERG can’t. Carry a constituency. Or, on recent evidence, count. The trouble is, neither can the Prime Minister. 200-117 is a bad result for the ERG and a bad result for the PM. Everyone loses. And so it is that after a day of huge drama very little has changed. There is still not a majority in the Conservative Party to remove… Read Article > Lodestone expands its international footprint Political strategy and corporate communications agency Lodestone has launched a new affiliate network to equip clients with the political intelligence and policy expertise they need to achieve success across key European markets. The new affiliate network includes partners based in Northern Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and Brussels who will be added to Lodestone’s existing international footprint in the America, EMEA and APAC regions. This comes shortly after the announcement that Lodestone has been shortlisted for three awards at the upcoming 2018 PRCA Public Affairs Awards, including Consultancy of the Year. With Brexit and complex trade negotiations on the horizon, and a new European Parliament and Commission taking office next year, Lodestone is expanding its international reach to offer clients pan-European public affairs and political risk advice. The affiliate… Read Article > Gimme Shelter It is very rare – particularly at the moment – that the House of Commons makes for must-watch TV. The weekly theatre of Prime Minister’s Questions has become, thanks to the pedestrian performances of both the PM and Leader of the Opposition, almost unwatchably dull. And the bulk of the work of MPs is not found in high oration and public denunciation, but in the slow and steady process of probing and amending legislation. Not exactly prime time stuff. And so it was a shock to many a politico’s system to find themselves, yesterday, glued to the Parliament channel. In one of the most brutalising scenes to play out in the chamber, Theresa May sat for almost three hours as members from every party and from every faction… Read Article > Dice Roll They say there are only really seven types of narrative, only a limited number of stories to be told. Voyage and return, rags to riches, tragedy and rebirth etc. Theresa May is a quester – like the hobbits of Middle Earth she faces a series of challenges and upsets and tests, in pursuit of a final goal. Today – against expectations, despite the hysteria – she overcame another obstacle. The Cabinet have let her live to fight onwards, for now. There may still be resignations. Penny Mordaunt demanded a free vote, a classic invented red line; David Mundell will be awaiting instructions from his Leader in the North (maternity leave notwithstanding) but they didn’t demand her head and they have not collectively junked her deal. Nonetheless, she has… Read Article > 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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