Wednesday, March 03, 2010

 

Ashcroft Scandal Good for Labour



It's disingenuous of Conservatives to claim moral equivalence between Lord Ashcroft and the likes of fellow non dom, Lord Paul. The core points are that Paul has been open about his status and plays only a peripheral role in Labour politics. Ashcroft, on the other hand has been central to the Tory revival and policy-making, with his own desk in their cen tral offices.

He has masterminded a shrewd and well funded assault on crucial marginal seats which could make nonsense of any predicted 'national' swings and clinch a victory. And he has done this on the basis of an untruth, about which Cameron must surely have known, (just as, one might hazard, Andy Coulson, knew about all that mobile phone hacking when he was editor of News of the World). In 1999 his nomination as a peer was refused as he was not resident in UK and did not pay taxes. He was given a peerage in 2000 on the understanding his status would change in both respects, something regarding which he gave written undertakings.

Labour can be forgiven for falling so gratefully upon this provident scandal, just as the Conservative campaign is, remarkably, running out of steam. That 2% You-gov lead was probably a rogue poll and a lead of at least 5% seems more credible. Students ask me why voters are dropping away from Dave's project and I have to confess, I'm not quite sure why. I suspect they are alarmed by phrases like 'age of austerity' and comforted by Labour's more emollient approach to the demands of the faltering recovery. They are also beginning to feel the Tories are not quite what they seem as the FT has exposed his wafer thin credibility in an unflattering series of articles.

Ashcroft has done his party a grave disservice and now has both Labour and Lib Dems at Tory throats over the issue. Chris Huhne rightly observed that the Belize based peer, through his dishonesty, had effectively given the Tories only a small percentage-some £10m- of the £100m plus he has saved by virtue of his non dom status since 2000. Voters senitised to cynical fat cat greed will not be impressed though, to be realistic I doubt the issue will have much traction outside Wesminster and the existence of Paul, Ronnie Cohen and the like among Labour donors scarcely strenthens their case.

We do indeed seem to be in 'hung parliament' territory, now more likely an outcome than not I'd say. Which makes the election so exciting for political anoraks of the kind who occupy the blogosphere. The odds, however, are still on the Tories emerging as the biggest party and if/when they do Cameron will lead a minority government. This outcome might not be too disastrous for Labour in that a further period of them in power does not seem credible, given their less than wildly successful 13 years stint and their current unpopular leader. But the polls, currently at least(they are very volatile right now) suggest it won't be a 'wipe-out' as I feared it might.

The prospects for the country inspires less sanguine thoughts. The Conservatives will find it very hard to govern given the parlous UK economic position, and imposing deep cuts from the outset will be both unpopular and possibly disastrous for the emergent but fragile recovery. I suspect that long periods of power which were initiated by Thatcher in 1979 will now give way to more traditional and shorter swings of the political pendulum


Comments:
"Students ask me why voters are dropping away from Dave's project and I have to confess, I'm not quite sure why."

I'm sure there are 2 things large parts of the electorate don't want.

Another Thatcher or another Blair - voting for the Cameroons will get you either (or both!!!).

The only high visibility Conservative that would steady nerves across the board is Ken Clarke, however the Conservatives could not risk a potential haemorrhage to UKIP.

What would be interesting is if the Lib Dems were led by someone with a more mature image.
 
But it's not only Paul is it, Mittel, Cohen and a few others who's names I cannot even spell, but it's sad if more was done by New Labour to keep the members then we not be in this mess, sorry I mean labour types.

The expenses and the whole trip of greed even goes down to running the party, I have just registered to vote after being told they were going to take me to court, they sent me a Postal vote because I've a disability, thats in the bin, like so many of the young I could not care a dam anymore who wins.
 
So the difference is that Paul was open about his non Dom status, he did not hide it, which begs the question why did labour not throw him out or is it just the fact that being a privy council means so little, Cohen Mittels the Ecclestone saga greed within the party for money, loans selling of a title.

No wonder greed and corruption is now seen as being OK so long as you own up.
 
Skipper I have a great deal of respect for you but here I simply cannot agree with you.

"The core points are that Paul has been open about his status and plays only a peripheral role in Labour politics."

He is not "peripheral". He is a former Labour whip in the Lords and is a member of the Privy Council for services rendered. The difference is that Ashcroft is higher profile, not a real difference in status. The reason he is higher profile is because he is running a highly effective campaign in the marginals, making bitter enemies of many Labour MPs.

As an aside, Paul has claimed £270,000 in expenses for attending the Lords on 263 occasions in the last three years. Ashcroft? 275 occasions - not a penny in expenses. Moreover, he has made innumerable charitable donations (remember, he bankrolls Crimestoppers) that he cares about enough, apparently, not to use them to defend himself against the current media bile aimed at him.

"In 1999 his nomination as a peer was refused as he was not resident in UK and did not pay taxes. He was given a peerage in 2000 on the understanding his status would change in both respects, something regarding which he gave written undertakings."

The undertaking he gave was that he would become resident in the UK, which meant he would pay tax on his UK income. He has done that. He still does not pay UK tax on income earned abroad. This is in fact perfectly normal, and does not merely affect the wealthy - remember how it was said a tax on "non-doms" proposed by Osborne to pay for his IHT cut would raise very little because most "non-doms" were not wealthy people?

"the existence of Paul, Ronnie Cohen and the like among Labour donors scarcely strenthens their case"

You've missed an elephant in the room - Lakshmi Mittal. Not only a non-dom, but a man whose campaign to gain a British passport almost put an end to Mandelson's political career. And how about Bernie Ecclestone? He's a non-dom, and I seem to remember a certain donation to Labour that was mysteriously followed by Formula One being exempted from a ban on tobacco advertising.

"But the polls, currently at least(they are very volatile right now) suggest it won't be a 'wipe-out' as I feared it might"

At the moment the polls show an adequate Labour recovery accompanied by a modest Tory fall. The likely overall Tory lead is about 5-8 points. This will almost certainly be plenty for a Conservative majority - particularly, as you note, with Ashcroft's campaign in the marginals. Moreover if, as Andy Cooke suggests, a large part of the Labour coalition is set to collapse in the way the Thatcher coalition did in 1992, the UNS is going to be a nonsense anyway.

I think the real reason this story has run and run is because the BBC appear hate Ashcroft for some reason - not because it is some kind of "gift" to Labour.

Apologies for a long comment, but I am currently very disappointed that we are all ignoring the real story in politics right know - the disastrous state of the economy and the fact that I may well have to leave Britain (which I don't want to do) to find work, thanks to Gordon Brown.
 
Doctorhuw
Lots of fair points re Mittal and probably Tory lead. Sorry you are having to emigrate. Labour has been a doisappointment and I speak as a paid up member.
 
Only idiots would look at the Tories without looking at labour, a non dom is a non dom and labour should not have them in the party. Sadly for labour it's all about money.
 
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