2015 general election

Jeremy Corbyn to stand for Labour leadership

Jeremy Corbyn is to stand for Labour leader. Those scoffing at the idea of the very rebellious backbencher entering the contest to lead a party he often disagrees with have rather missed the point. Corbyn doesn’t think he can win. He doesn’t even want to win (he is one of the few MPs who I’ve interviewed who I really believed when they said they really didn’t want to be promoted). What Corbyn wants is to make a point that so far none of the candidates represent the faction of the party from which he hails: that is, the ones who identify strongly with the editorial line of the Morning Star and

Isabel Hardman

Tory rebels are already starting to cause trouble

David Cameron might have had an enjoyable session teasing Labour at Prime Minister’s Questions, but as soon as he’d finished doing so in his head-to-head with Harriet Harman, he was reminded that winning an election with a majority that is so small means he can’t have fun all the time. Andrew Mitchell stood up to press the Prime Minister on human rights reform, expressing concern about any moves to leave the European Convention on human rights: ‘My right hon. Friend will be well aware that there is considerable concern on both sides of the House at the proposition that Britain might withdraw from the European convention on human rights. Will

James Forsyth

Cameron has a PMQs trump card – he won the election

The first PMQs after an election victory is a moment to savour for a Prime Minister. He knows that the result gives him a trump card he can play again and again. So, it was unsurprising that Harriet Harman made little progress against Cameron. He treated it as a gentle net session, meeting each question with a slightly more aggressive and expansive answer. He did, though, seem slightly discombobulated by Ed Balls’ absence. Early on he made a joke about Balls’ defeat and then looked over to where Balls used to sit to drive the point home, but Balls – of course — wasn’t there. The main event today, though,

Here’s why the Tories convinced one million BME voters to support them

One of the funnier moments of the election involved Ed Miliband assuming that a turban-wearing Sikh gentleman he met on the campaign trail would, naturally, be helping him get the Sikh vote out for Labour.  In fact, the man was a Conservative parliamentary candidate. It seemed to exemplify the extent to which Labour assumed ethnic minorities would vote for them – but all that is changing. New research from British Future shows that 1 million BME voters helped keep David Cameron in Number 10. This means that one in three minority ethnic voters supported the Tories, which is the party’s best result to date. I was brought up in a pro-Labour

Isabel Hardman

Can MPs really refuse a pay rise anyway?

If you’re a Labour leadership contender, or keen for other reasons to look in touch with people – or perhaps you really do disagree with MPs getting a 10 per cent pay rise, then the fashionable thing to say is that you’ll be turning down the pay rise. This morning Andy Burnham has said he will refuse the extra £7,000 that Ipsa plans to pay MPs per year, tweeting that he ‘will turn down at source or give to local groups’. Stella Creasy, campaigning to be elected Labour’s deputy leader, has said similar. I have always been clear that 10% pay rise for MPs cannot be justified. I won't accept

Nicky Morgan faces her first big blob battle with new academies bill

The march of academies takes a step forward today. The government will publish the  Education and Adoption Bill, which will make it a legal requirement for failing schools to convert to academies. There are currently 235 schools deemed to be failing by Ofsted and the Department for Education estimates that 1,000 schools will convert to academies over the next five years as a result of this new agenda. The education secretary Nicky Morgan is fulfilling a manifesto commitment with this bill, but also seizing on the momentum of a new parliament to ensure it passes quickly — as happened in 2010 with the original Academies Act. On the Today programme, Morgan said the

New head of Conservative Way Forward aims to keep Tory activists busy

Westminster is still recovering from the 2015 election but some Conservatives are already thinking ahead to 2020. Two of Conservative HQ’s activist movements, Team 2015 and Roadtrip 2015, were key in mobilising support on the ground, as well as getting out the vote. Although Team 2020 is a long way off from hitting the stump, a key member of the Tories’ operation is planning to continue this work from outside the party. Grant Shapps’ former chief of staff Paul Abbott is leaving Conservative HQ to run Conservative Way Forward, the Thatcherite pressure group that counts tub-thumpers Norman Tebbit, Liam Fox and Conor Burns among its patrons. Abbott previously worked for


Lynton Crosby vs. Lord Ashcroft round two: ‘he’s not a pollster’

Those hoping one of Westminster’s most entertaining ongoing feuds would cool after the election will be disappointed. As the dust settled on David Cameron’s majority, his 2010 confident and in-house polling guru Lord Ashcroft let rip in the New Statesman at the Tories’ victorious 2015 election strategist Lynton Crosby: ‘By and large, on balance, we can all agree that it has not been a great election for the pollsters. But there is (or so we read) one notable exception. The private polls commissioned from the Tory bunker by the campaign chief Lynton Crosby and the US guru Jim Messina got the result ­absolutely right, at least according to, well, Lynton Crosby

Isabel Hardman

No, MPs are not ‘giving themselves a pay rise’

So MPs are now set for a 10 per cent pay rise, taking their basic salaries to £74,000. Cue fury about MPs shoving their snouts in the trough as they award themselves a pay rise. Social media is bristling with fury that MPs could be so out of touch. The reality is, of course, that MPs are not awarding themselves anything. They have no power over their pay. They have not voted on their pay and they will not vote on their pay. This is because they contracted decisions on pay out to an independent body, IPSA, to make these decisions. One of the reasons for setting up IPSA was

Isabel Hardman

Labour leadership contenders make their case at health questions

The odd thing about the Labour leadership contest is that while it runs, two of the most different candidates, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham, must work together in the Shadow Health team. Today they had a chance to show how well they perform in the Commons, speaking within minutes of one another at the first questions of the new Parliament. Kendall asked about access to GPs, asking Jeremy Hunt why he had failed to meet his promises in this area. Her delivery was not particularly confident: she read her question and was nowhere near as forceful as Burnham, who came later. Hunt congratulated the Shadow Health Minister on her return

How to lose an EU referendum

Ten years ago France was in meltdown shock as the country that prided itself on being the most European and communitaire of all had said a decisive Non to European integration. Jack Straw, then the foreign secretary, phoned Tony Blair with the result in some jubilation. Jack, one of the nicest senior ministers ever, was never much of a Europhile and the French No meant Britain avoided a plebiscite that would also have said No to Europe. What the French said no was called the EU constitution but in reality was just another treaty agreed between member states after arduous negotiations. Curiously the proposed text excluded the words ‘ever-closer union

Isabel Hardman

David Cameron is putting himself in the firing line on immigration

One of the important but unglamorous adjustments that the Conservatives have had to make in majority government is the structure of government itself. It’s the sort of thing that was particularly important under the Coalition, as Nick Clegg had managed, rather cannily, to gather a great deal of power for himself on powerful but unheard of Cabinet committees. Now there is no Nick Clegg, and Oliver Letwin has taken the former Deputy Prime Minister’s place on the Cabinet Committees where he wielded unseen power by blocking Tory policies. The full list of Cabinet Committees and ‘implementation taskforce’ (more on that in a bit) memberships is below, but to take one

Alex Massie

Charles Kennedy, 1959-2015

Charles Kennedy had many favourite jokes but when, as he often did, he returned to the Glasgow University Union, he was particularly fond of regaling his audience with the story of how his career had developed. As more than one old GUU hand has remembered this morning, it went something like this: ‘I received a letter from my careers adviser about halfway through my final year telling me that I needed to come in for a chat, so off I trooped to University Gardens. When I arrived, my Professor sat me down and said, ‘Charles, you’ve done so well at University: President of the Union, British debating champion, you’ve been

Fighting talk from a dove — Peter Oborne interviews Charles Kennedy

The former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy has died at the age of 55. He was the party’s most successful leader in 80 years, winning 62 seats in 2005 general election following the Iraq war. On the eve of the 2002 Lib Dem conference, The Spectator’s then political editor Peter Oborne interviewed Kennedy about his opposition to military action in Iraq and his chances of overtaking the Conservatives as the main party of opposition. No politician has the opportunity that Charles Kennedy has today: he just might reconfigure the political landscape. With the Conservative party in a weak and semimoribund state, uncertain of its own identity and still struggling to

Isabel Hardman

Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy dies aged 55

Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has died at his home in Fort William aged 55. His family released this statement this morning: ‘It is with great sadness, and an enormous sense of shock, that we announce the death of Charles Kennedy. Charles died at home in Fort William yesterday. He was 55. We are obviously devastated at the loss. ‘Charles was a fine man, a talented politician, and a loving father to his young son. We ask therefore that the privacy of his family is respected in the coming days. ‘There will be a post-mortem and we will issue a further statement when funeral arrangements are made.’

Team Miliband said ‘we must not underestimate Éoin Clarke’

The failings of those around Ed Miliband are numerous. From the Edstone to the interview with Russell Brand, the disconnection between Team Miliband and the real world was one of the key factors contributing to Labour’s defeat last month. But I now understand they committed a far graver crime: taking Dr. Eoin Clarke seriously. Clarke, or @LabourEoin as he is better known, spends his days tweeting poorly produced infographics about various public policy matters — mostly related to the NHS. With 42k followers, plus 25k through his ‘think tank’ @LabourLeft and 10.4k with @LabourAndy, he has a decent reach within the hard left. Although there are a group of Labour MPs who retweet

Rachida Dati MEP interview — David Cameron’s unlikely French ally in Brussels

The last time former French Justice Minister and MEP Rachida Dati had the attention of the British press she was embroiled in a combination of sex, politics and intrigue as only the French establishment could concoct. Now she’s back as an unlikely, but potentially vital, centrepiece to the Conservative leadership’s plan to keep Britain in Europe. ‘David Cameron has been brave in basically saying: we want the British people to feel comfortable in the EU, but we want them to have a “better deal”‘ Dati opines. We’re sat in the grandly gothic surroundings of London’s St Pancras station, and the last staging post en-route back to Brussels feels a suitable

Isabel Hardman

Team Yvette: We are setting the agenda in the leadership contest

Now that the three main candidates in the Labour leadership contest have established themselves, they are vying to be the ones who set the agenda and the terms of debate. This suggests, they hope, that others, including rival candidates, respect them so much that they cannot help but following their lead. So Yvette Cooper’s campaign believe that Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham have been following in the Shadow Home Secretary’s wake, pointing to interventions she has made on business, tax, the benefit cap, the party’s response to the election and the possibility of a break clause for the party to dump or renew its support for a leader. All of