Robert Hampton

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8th May 2015

Oh no

I should have listened to Ian:-

He was worried about “shy Tories”. I tried to stay calm and confident. Thursday evening the polls were neck and neck and it looked as though Labour, even if it wasn’t the biggest party, had enough votes to lock the Tories out.

And yet… I had a nagging feeling that all wasn’t well.

Then the exit poll came out, and hope dissipated:-

Labour figures were duly wheeled on screen to tell Andrew Neil that the exit poll didn’t square with their experience in constituencies across the UK. However, once the results started to come in, it became clear that, if anything, the Tory vote had been underestimated.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I was looking forward to the wrangling of a hung Parliament and the promised “anti-Tory bloc”. I had little meme GIFs ready to go.

I continued tweeting out the odd daft joke, fuelled by an unholy combination of coffee and Pepsi Max. I finally gave up just after Sheffield Hallam declared, with Nick Clegg just hanging on to his seat. A few crumbs came in the form of Esther McVey and George Galloway losing their seats, and Nigel Farage failing to take Thanet South. Really though, Thursday night can’t be viewed as anything other than a disaster.

Through it all, I felt numb. It was only this morning when Ed Miliband announced his resignation, that it finally hit home what had happened. The Tories, now with a majority, and the freedom to push through all their crazy ideas.

Say goodbye to the Human Rights Act, the European Union and the NHS. Say hello to the Snoopers Charter and (probably) water cannon on the streets. Savage cuts to welfare, council services and the BBC are all in the pipeline. All the progress made during Labour’s 13 years in government – gone.

Perhaps the worst thing is that this represents a victory for the old establishment. Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre, the Barclay Brothers – this is the result they wanted.

I don’t mind admitting that I cried a little bit. I’m genuinely scared for the future. The next five years are going to be difficult for anyone on the left. The best we can hope for is that Labour regroups quickly, as it did after 1992. Meanwhile, I’m considering moving to Scotland… or Berlin (subject to EU free movement rules of course).

6th May 2015

Ballot Dancer

Note: this post is quite long. I’ve tried to rewrite it a couple of times, and each time it still ends up quite rambling. It doesn’t say all I want to say; for example, it barely mentions the Greens (which I’m not happy about) or UKIP (which I am much less unhappy about). But voting takes place tomorrow, so I’ve more or less run out of time to say anything about the election. On the basis that the text below probably makes about as much sense as any other comment on this unusual and unpredictable election, I’m posting it as-is.

TLDR: Labour aren’t perfect, but Ed Miliband as PM is the best possible outcome.

Opinion polls are rubbish. Seriously.

During this campaign we have seen two or three new opinion polls released each day. Generally, one shows a slight Labour lead, and Labour supporters get excited for a couple of hours, until a different poll comes out showing the Tories a couple of points ahead. Average them all out and both parties are in a dead heat. In fact, the polls have barely moved since the start of the campaign on 30th March.

Politicians are fond of saying that the only poll that matters is the one on election day, and they’re probably right this time. We could easily see a rerun of 1992 when the polling got the election result spectacularly wrong. On the other hand, the polls could be right, and both Labour and the Conservatives could end up more or less level in terms of seats.

(As an aside, my friend Ian Jones’s UK General Election blog is an excellent source for number-crunching and statistics)

In short, we are going into Thursday’s election with no definite idea of what the result will be. Lots of commentators are saying it is the most exciting election in living memory. Yes, it’s exciting – the same way I’d be excited if I didn’t know whether my birthday present was a gold watch or a lump of dog shit. If this election goes the wrong way and the Tories somehow get back in, I think it would be a disaster for the country.

Read the rest of this post »

7th March 2015

Posted by at 7.13pm | Politics | 1 response

Lovely piece following Ed Miliband on the campaign trail, revealing a side to the Labour leader which is seldom seen in interviews. Here, he comes across as an ordinary, personable, passionate man. If decency and integrity were enough to win an election, he would walk it.

8th October 2013

I read the news today… Oh boy
Posted by at 8.09pm | In the News, Politics | 1 response

The Daily Mail last week it launched a vicious attack on Ed Miliband’s father. Based on one diary entry, which Ralph Miliband made when he was 17, it described him as “THE MAN WHO HATED BRITAIN”. A pretty nasty smear on a man who is not here to defend himself. The claim was also quite dubious, given that Miliband Senior served in the Navy during World War II.

Ed Miliband, unsurprisingly, came out fighting in defence of his father. He demanded the right to reply, only for the Daily Mail to publish his defence of his father alongside a reprint of the original article and a defiant editorial insisting that they were right.

The Mail may have miscalculated. It is drawing criticism from all sides, including from David Cameron and top headmasters. Also, a paper which printed headlines like “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” in the 1930s should have perhaps been a bit more careful about digging up other people’s dirt from 75 years ago (see Roy Greenslade’s piece in the Guardian for more on this). Alastair Campbell’s rant against the paper on Newsnight is sure to become a viral internet hit. Whatever you think of Campbell (and I don’t think very much of him), his description of the Mail as “the worst of British values masquerading as the best” resonates.

Miliband emerges from this row with his reputation enhanced, while an opinion poll reveals that a majority of people think the paper is in the wrong, and 57% of the Mail’s own readers believe the paper’s editor should apologise.

Paul Dacre himself has kept a low profile during this row. The Media Blog points out that the Mail is usually quick to demand that heads roll at the BBC or Channel 4 when they broadcast something offensive, however it does not extend that standard to its own editor.

Compounding the offence, sister publication The Mail on Sunday is in hot water after it sent undercover reporters to the funeral of Miliband’s uncle – apparently to try and get some juicy gossip. At least that paper apologised.

It’s easy to put this down to the rough and tumble of politics – the Labour party is ahead in the polls, and the Mail want to discredit the party’s leader by any means possible. There’s a good debate to be had about the merits of Labour’s policies… so let’s have that debate, rather than cheap character assassination.

There’s also a wider issue here: how many other people has the Mail attacked, and how many of them, unlike Miliband, have no platform of their own with which to fight back?

Amidst all this, it’s great news that the Government has rejected plans for a new press self-regulation body – PressBoF – which would have meant the newspapers continuing to, as the Hacked Off campaign puts it, “mark their own homework”. The newspaper groups are opposed to the proposed press regulator backed by Royal Charter. They say it would lead to politicians meddling, and an end to the free press.

It’s a difficult balancing act, but self-regulation has been a failure. From the Hillsborough fans to Christopher Jeffries to Milly Dowler to Ralph Miliband, the papers have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted to police themselves.

29th August 2013

Posted by at 11.27pm | In the News, Politics | No responses

Shock news tonight as the Government’s motion on Syria was defeated in the House of Commons. The vote was expected to be a token gesture – the Prime Minister does not even have to consult Parliament on launching military action. Even so, the motion was expected to pass. However, the figures can’t be disputed – 285 against, 272 in favour. The only sign of the military tonight is an appearance from Major Miscalculation.

Nobody could deny that what is happening in Syria – with chemical weapons being used – is an act of barbarity almost beyond comprehension. I can’t understand, however, why chemical weapons are the “red line” that musn’t be crossed, when over 100,000 people have already died.

As The Guardian explains, Ed Miliband deserves credit for standing firm and successfully forcing this retreat, even when Tory sources are briefing that he is a “copper-bottomed shit” and a Number 10 spokesman accuses him of giving “succour” to the Syrian regime.

Labour is not opposed to military action; I think the party’s position can be characterised as “sitting on the fence”, but it’s good to see they’ve learned some lessons from the Iraq debacle. We should be very careful before getting involved in any conflicts anywhere. That’s not to say that not getting involved is definitely the right decision – only time will tell – but I’m pleased that Cameron’s gung-ho attitude has been rebuffed.

Despite the seriousness of the issues being discussed, BBC Parliament’s microphones still captured all the usual booing and catcalling, with one MP yelling “resign!” at the Prime Minister. The SNP MP Angus Roberts has just been on Sky News, saying that Michael Gove has been shouting “Disgrace!” at rebel MPs. It is not a brilliant advertisement for our democracy.

In tomorrow’s papers, expect a lot of point-missing political pundits arguing about the outcome of the vote and what it means for the careers of Ed Miliband and David Cameron. The important thing to remember is that public opinion is against military action, and tonight Parliament respected that.

Amidst all the partisan bickering, we must keep in mind the reason for this debate tonight: the situation in Syria. Send a few quid the way of the Disasters Emergency Committee.