In the meantime it is alleged by some sources that Ed Miliband Around 72% of the public believe that the Daily Mail was wrong to call Labour leader Ed Miliband‘s father Ralph the “man who hated Britain”, while about 69% of people in general and 57% of Daily Mail readers think the newspaper should apologise, according to an opinion poll published on Sunday.
The YouGov poll, conducted on behalf of the Sunday Times, came as about 200 protesters gathered outside the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday offices in London following the publication of the Ralph Miliband article last week, which the Labour leader said had left him “appalled”.
Late Sunday the campaign group Hacked Off said it had written to the Daily Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere asking him to reconsider his rejection of an inquiry into ethics at the paper, called for by Miliband.
The dispute will be a part of the context for a meeting of the privy council on Wednesday, at which politicians are expected to make a decision about the future of press regulation. They are likely to look at a royal charter proposed by the newspaper industry, which has been examined by eight Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs over the summer. If this is rejected, the privy council is likely to back a royal charter agreed by all three leading political parties but rejected by some elements of the press.
The press industry is likely to set up its own form of regulation, even if it does not receive the seal of a royal charter.
In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Miliband said he would never disparage David Cameron in the same way that Miliband’s father Ralph had been by the Daily Mail, even though he believes the prime minister’s policies are “profoundly misguided”.
“I say judge him by his deeds,” he told the BBC. “Let me put it this way: I would never say about David Cameron that he hates Britain, I would never say he doesn’t want the best for this country. Of course he wants the best for this country. So what the Mail said about my dad, I would never say about David Cameron.”
At the protest outside the Daily Mail offices, demonstrators said they were expressing anger in the wake of the Ralph Miliband story. “The message is clear,” said the journalist and campaigner Owen Jones, addressing the crowd. “Enough is enough: stop your campaign of hatred.”
Jones said the newspapers had spent years demonising large sections of society, from public sector workers to women and trade union members. “We are speaking up for decency … this is a show of cheerful defiance by all the people who have been picked on by the Daily Mail.”
Some Tory politicians have expressed fears that the backlash against Miliband’s treatment will influence this week’s discussions on press regulation at the Privy Council. David Davis, a senior Conservative and former leadership candidate, said David Cameron had ended up being forced to accept newspaper regulation because he “didn’t know how to deal” with the phone-hacking scandal which led to the Leveson inquiry. “I think he didn’t know how to deal with it, truthfully. I actually don’t think this is what they planned. I think the idea was … I’m guessing what they thought was Leveson would come out with was a very ponderous and sort of sonorous condemnation of bad practices but the preservation of the free press – and in a way he sort of did – and that would be the end of it.
“But actually the Hacked Off campaign, the Labour party has very strong campaigners – Tom Watson’s one good example – drove the issue I think to the wrong conclusion. Maybe with the best intentions, but to the wrong conclusion.”
David Davis, a senior Conservative and former leadership candidate, said the Daily Mail had been “horribly heavy-handed” towards Miliband but Labour is “wrong to go down this route” of pushing for strict press regulation.
The political “story” of July and August (there is always one that runs and runs) was of Miliband’s “lost summer”. Miliband was weak. Even his own people, all holidaying, seemed reluctant to help. Economic recovery had put all the political shots in Tory lockers.
It is foolish to overstate the importance of sudden political mood shifts, but conference season 2013 could go down as a defining one. Certainly it helped define Ed Miliband. It positioned Labour much more to the left, David Cameron‘s Tories a little more to the right, and the Liberal Democrats as the sole enthusiasts for a previously overcrowded centre.
No single leader (except perhaps Ukip’s Nigel Farage) had a bad conference. Nick Cleggsaw off Vince Cable and secured his position. Cameron played it safe and statesmanlike. But Miliband made strides, gaining a profile and framing the beginnings of a political message. Even Tory commentators welcomed him to the big league, as a considerable, if alarming, figure.
Just as the Tories’ 2005 conference propelled Cameron to the forefront in a flash, Labour’s Brighton gathering of 2013 did the same for Miliband. Conservatives said he had shifted the political debate. Spectator editor Fraser Nelson wrote that, while the Labour leader offered “ideas buried under four decades of dust”, he had “changed the record”. “The Ed Miliband we see before us is one of the most intellectually interesting figures in British politics,” said Nelson. Daily Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne showered him with compliments. “There was a real humanity about what he had to say today, and I think members of the metropolitan media elite who love to sneer at Mr Miliband may be missing the point.”
Nick Clegg arguably offered the freshest political message, giving his unpopular party a sense of purpose and self-importance. “Our mission is anchoring Britain to the centre ground. Our place is in government again” was how he concluded his Glasgow speech. No more the tricksy party of protest but, today and in future, and now mature, the nation’s essential safeguard inside government. Only Lib Dems could save the country from “heartless” Tories or “profligate” Labour.
But it was Miliband who moved the economic debate and, in so doing, threw his opponents. Conventional wisdom had it that economic recovery would be a disaster for Labour – and it may still turn out to be so. But for now at least it seems to have taken some of the heat off Miliband and Ed Balls.
The talk at Labour and Tory conferences was less of who would have the guts to cut the deficit, and who landed us in economic crisis – both terrible terrain for Labour. Suddenly it was about who benefits when things are getting better. Labour turned the debate from one about past failings, and the need to axe spending, to one about solutions to fill people’s pockets. Miliband argued that “the link had been broken” between growth and rising real wages. Wages had fallen behind inflation, he said, in all but one month since the coalition had come to office. The proceeds of recovery were going to the “privileged few”. Trickledown economics was not working. So if the market had failed, the state needed to move in. The “cost of living crisis” was the catchphrase of the entire conference season.
“If we win the next election in 2015, the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. Your bills will be frozen, benefiting millions of families and millions of businesses” was Miliband’s headline-grabber. It was a risky but popular move. “Red Ed: Return to Socialism”, cried the Daily Telegraph. But it was the one announcement in three weeks that really grabbed attention. Off the back of it Miliband began to benefit from what Cameron had enjoyed in opposition – the positive effects of being the new kid on the block with ideas.
At a ConservativeHome fringe meeting in Manchester, Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory deputy chairman, who now throws his money at polling in marginal seats and enjoys talking truth to power, sounded a warning. In many ways, he said, things were looking up. “There have been improvements for the Conservatives in nearly all the important measures, including leadership, competence, having clear ideas and being a united party, while Labour have fallen back.” But there was one important area where they were not – “the question of being on the side of ordinary people, not just the better off. We have made very little progress here and lag further behind Labour and the Lib Dems than at the start of the year. This is clearly an area Labour intend to exploit, and we need to find ways of showing it’s true of the Tories too.”
Miliband’s speech informed his every word. It spelt danger. Yet anyone hoping that Cameron would try to trump Labour with a counterblast on the “cost of living crisis” was left disappointed. The cabinet made a deliberate decision not to do so, partly because no announcements were ready and partly because the Tories had accused Miliband of an ill-thought-out stunt over energy bills and were uneasy about offering a batch of their own.
Manchester was chosen for the conference because the Tories are so weak in the north. Outside the conference hall people hurled abuse at “Tory scum”. Yet there was little to appease them. Instead Tory ministers offered more tough love. Iain Duncan Smith said he wanted to force jobseekers to spend 35 hours a week at the jobcentre to show they were not trying to “cheat the system”, while Cameron made clear that he would end housing benefit for the under-25s.
Cameron deliberately struck a statesmanlike tone in a decent pro-business speech in which he asked to be able to “finish the job”. Gone were the modernising messages and the “sunshine” of former days. The “big society” seemed buried and forgotten. His message was that only by helping business would jobs and wealth be created. You couldn’t create wealth from the bottom up.
The question posed by Labour – that these days too much of the wealth created by business goes to the few at the top, while the wages of the millions at the bottom lag behind – was left unaddressed as more clear blue water opened up.
Nigel Farage’s Ukip conference was an unmitigated disaster. He admits that it was torpedoed by one man, the MEP Godfrey Bloom, who hit a journalist round the head with a brochure and joked that a room debating women in politics was “full of sluts”. Not good for votes – particularly female ones – you would presume. Bloom will no longer stand under the Ukip banner.
But Farage, never seemingly bowed, moved on fast from his London debacle. To Manchester, in fact, where he held his own mini-conference on the Monday of the Tories’gathering, trying to mop up more Conservative support. He was cheered by many. The highlight came in an epic row with the redoubtable Tory Eurosceptic Bill Cash. Both tried to out-sceptic the other. Cash said he voted against the Maastricht Treaty 47 times, but Farage would have none of it, snarling that the veteran Tory had in fact sold out by voting with John Major in a subsequent vote of confidence. “You didn’t have the balls!” he raged.
Many members of the Thatcherite Bow Group, which hosted the Ukip leader and Cash, share Farage’s views on the EU. Despite its chaotic, ill-disciplined, and in a few cases seemingly racist, membership, Ukip remains a real threat to the Tories and to a lesser extent Labour and Lib Dems.
Our Opinium/Observer poll puts Ukip on 15% (down 2% on a fortnight ago). In with a chance of coming first in next year’s European elections, it has the potential to destabilise the Tories in the runup to a general election. Its opposition to the HS2 high-speed rail line threatens Tory seats and may persuade Cameron to drop support for it. Ashcroft says Ukip is a real force but still an unknown quantity, whose supporters are hardly interested in any issues apart from immigration, Europe and defence. The conference season has dented Ukip, but the most striking thing is its resilience when it has so little to offer.
Miliband is a more significant figure after conference season 2013. He has answered those who said he had no policies, and silenced, for now at least, some internal critics. Labour dominated Cameron’s speech – which suggests the Tories now fear him.
Miliband is expected to hold a reshuffle this week, or very soon, to further stamp his mark on the party. But he has also shown himself up for fights that his predecessors never dared to take on. His row with the Daily Mail over its claim that his father “hated Britain” is fraught with danger – but he can no longer be accused of lacking courage and belief.
Yet it is far from certain that his economic message of support for those struggling to pay their bills and his threat to repossess land so more houses are built will trump Cameron’s appeal not to give the keys of the car back to those who crashed it last time round. Labour will face a barrage from the rightwing press, which claims Miliband is taking the country back to the days of state intervention and socialism. He now has to prove that he can not only shift the economic debate on to new ground, and come up with ideas, but convince the public he is the man to deliver the new solutions he is suggesting.
The post-conference polls appeared to give Miliband a lift but have now reverted to where they were before. His personal ratings remain dire. Our Opinium survey gives Labour only a 5% lead, and it remains way behind the Tories on the economy. The conference has shifted much – it has changed the frame – but it offers no greater certainty about what the result of the next election will be.
In an alleged interview with The Independent, the Labour leader accused ministers of being too close to the Big Six energy companies. Analysis reveals that ministers from the Department of Energy and Climate Change have met representatives from the energy giants on 128 occasions since the Coalition was formed in 2010, yet have held talks with the main groups representing energy consumers only 26 times during the same period.
Labour will table amendments to the Lobbying Bill, which returns to the Commons tomorrow, that would force all lobbyists to join the register proposed by the Government, including in-house lobbyists employed by the energy companies. The Bill currently covers professional “third-party” lobbyists who contact ministers and aides directly.
The Opposition will also demand a code of conduct with “real sanctions” and moves to prevent conflicts of interest when people switch between government and lobbying firms. The energy firms regularly “second” staff to Whitehall departments including the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), while some civil servants spend time working in the industry. The Big Six are drawing up a campaign to lobby against Mr Miliband’s pledge to freeze gas and electricity prices for 20 months if Labour wins power.
Mr Miliband said: “The Government’s Lobbying Bill will not capture the big energy lobbyists, who will continue to escape scrutiny. We will bring in a universal register of all professional lobbyists, along with a code of conduct backed by sanctions.”
The Labour leader sees the crackdown on lobbyists as the next stage of his campaign to stand up to the “vested interests” in the energy industry.
Mr Miliband claimed: “We have an energy market that isn’t working for ordinary families and businesses. Yet rather than act, this Tory-led Government is letting energy firms overcharge millions of families who are struggling to pay their ever-rising energy bills.” He added: “With a cost of living crisis gripping Britain, hardworking people need a government that fights for them. Instead we have a Prime Minister who always stands up for a privileged few.”
Its further The Independent’s analysis found that since May 2010, Decc ministers have held talks with Centrica, the owner of British Gas, on 30 occasions; met Scottish Power 26 times; EDF 21; SSE 19; RWE npower 17 and E. on 15. In contrast, the ministers met Consumer Focus 13 times; Which? on 10 occasions; Energy Action twice and held one session with “consumer groups”.
The Bill was long-delayed despite Mr Cameron’s warning before the last election that lobbying was “the next big scandal waiting to happen”. But the measure has won few friends because of its narrow scope.
After warnings by the industry that most lobbyists who meet ministers will be unaffected, Labour’s amendments say that anyone who meets the definition of lobbying, whether working on behalf of a client or an employer, should be required to join the register. Labour would also require lobbyists to declare the approximate value of their activity and to list the individuals involved.
Labour proposes an “enforceable code of conduct”, including a ban on inappropriate financial relationships between lobbyists and MPs or peers. Tough sanctions for breaches of the code of would include preventing the worst offenders from practising by removing them from the register.
The Opposition also wants to prevent conflicts of interests arising from the “revolving door” when ministers or officials join lobbying companies or lobbyists move to a job in government. It says appointments should be scrutinised by a committee, which could attach conditions to prevent those involved using their new role to further other interests.
Decc insisted on Sunday taht its links with the energy companies are “entirely above board”, saying that steps were taken to avoid any conflict of interest and details of meetings were published. A Decc spokesman said: “Keeping the lights on and delivering value to consumers is a vital job and it is perfectly normal for Decc ministers and officials regularly to meet with energy suppliers as well as independent players and environmental and consumer groups to discuss energy issues.”
The Government insists that it has listened to critics of the Bill. Andrew Lansley, the Commons Leader who is responsible for it, has announced changes after charities complained that they could be “gagged” by proposed curbs on political campaigning before elections. But umbrella groups representing these bodies said the amendments do not go far enough.
My take on Nick Clegg insist that his party will be the king maker in deciding the outcome of the general elections should there be another coalition already there are cracks as both Conservatives andLibDems.
Labour has made it clear no to a coalition deal as they want an outright win. Cameron and the Daily Mail has attacked the Labour Party over smear campaigns yet all the Conservatives can talk about how to win back their donors who have defected to UKIP which is hurting the rank and file of the Tories.
In my mind there is doubt that Ed Miliband has up his game over the living standards and utility bills which left a big dent in the Tory conference. I’m not impressed with the actions of the dailyfail for trying to discredit Ed Milibands late father(Ralph Miliband) which the family has not received a formal apology.
There is a oppressive stink of collusion here, between a press outlet and Tory HQ, as the steam begins to build for the next general election. I foresee that, just as happened last time a deeply unpopular Tory government was fighting for its life (and, thankfully, losing) the 2015 election campaign will be a series of smears and dirty tricks. This Daily Mail incident is just the first; of that I have no doubt whatsoever.
I am glad that Labour party is looking at “making work pay” means extending opportunities and GIVING something,, such as free child-care – the race to the top approach, whereas for the Tories , it means TAKING SOMETHING AWAY, such as benefits and basic subsistence awards. That’s the race to the bottom of the mire that the Tories are so fond of.
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Labour will tackle the cost of living crisis and make work pay by building an economy that works for everyone.
If you support a Labour government in 2015, we will:
Freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017 to help families, pensioners and businesses
Cut taxes for 24 million working people by introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax
Make work pay by expanding free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds to 25 hours a week for working parents
Get young people and the long-term unemployed back to work with a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee – a paid job they will have to take up or lose benefits
End the abuse of zero hours contracts and strengthen the minimum wage
Back small businesses by cutting business rates in 2015 and freezing them again in 2016
We won’t borrow for day-to-day spending, and we’ve asked the independent Office for Budget Responsibility to sign off on our next manifesto, so you’ll know our numbers add up.