Look Left – EU budget rows, energy policy confusion, and America goes to the polls

Shamik Das looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.


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• Tory rebels combined with Labour to inflict defeat on David Cameron in the EU budget vote last night.

Nick Clegg described Labour’s stance as “dishonest” and “hypocritical”, and “not the behaviour of a party serious about government”. He attacked the party’s “change of heart” and “clever opposition politics”. For more on Clegg, and the short-term politics behind Labour’s sudden alliance with Tory Euroscepticism, see our report here.

Though the non-binding vote, ultimately, will have little real policy impact (at least in the short-term), the negative effect of what some have called “opportunistic gesture politics” on future Lib Dem/Labour cooperation could be more significant – see our report today from the Social Liberal Forum here for more, and check out our report on some of the many ways in which Britain benefits from EU membership here.

• Yesterday, it was the Tory frontbench the Lib Dems were at loggerheads with – over wind farms.

In continuation of the seemingly never-ending omnishambles, Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey slapped down Tory energy minister John Hayes after he had said “enough is enough” and wind turbines can “no longer” be “imposed on communities”. Hayes was also at odds with Lord Heseltine – whose growth report stressed the opportunities presented by wind power. See our report here for more.

The day before, it was business secretary Vince Cable’s turn to look amateurish, when, quizzed by the BIS select committee, said the cabinet’s mysterious growth committee had “never met” – before “correcting the record” an hour later to recall it had actually met, twice – last month and last week – so memorable and important it had slipped his mind. See our video here for more. The Thick Of It is dead; long live The Thick Of It (real life edition…). 

• Voters in the States go to the polls on Tuesday, against the backdrop of mega-storm Hurricane Sandy, which this week struck the Eastern Seaboard – with devastating consequences.

Normal campaigning was suspended, with President Obama stepping off the campaign trail to lead the response, and the Mitt Romney team also suspending normal political combat and electioneering. The ramifications of Sandy for the race are not yet clear, though many believe it will benefit the incumbent, with Obama looking in charge, statesmanlike, Presidential – while Romney struggles to get airtime, and cannot be seen to press his case at a time of national distress. Leading US pollster Nate Silver’s latest forecast gives Obama a 79 per cent chance of winning, with the Democrat projected to take 300 electoral college seats.

For more on the impact of Sandy on the race, see our report here, and check out our latest campaign digests here and here.

Progressive of the Week:

Lord Heseltine, whose report on growth this week urged the government to adopt a new industrial policy and go all out for economic growth, making the case for the role of government – “a major rebalancing of responsibilities for economic development between central and local government, and between government and the private sector” – in contrast to the non-interventionist, small state approach preferred by George Osborne. See our report here for more. 

Regressive of the Week:

James Murdoch, described at today’s BSkyB AGM as being “toxic to shareholders” – yet somehow retaining his place on the board, with only five per cent of shareholders opposing his continued tenure. See our report on the latest news here, and see here for why it matters; it’s not just the phone hacking scandal, some of the company’s biggest shareholders are pension funds and insurance companies.

Evidence of the Week:

Implementing Universal Credit Will the reforms improve the service for users?” (pdf) from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, released this week, which investigated the impact of the Universal Credit, concluding it represents a “significant challenge” to low-income families and is likely to affect women “disproportionately”. See our report here for more.

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