Tag Archives: Politics

Turning the tide of waste…

The first cut is the deepest, or at least that’s how the song goes – clearly the coalition haven’t listened to much Rod Stewart (or if we’re being picky Cat Stevens), because the first cuts made to public spending have been a little shallower than we might have expected. It’s great news of course that schemes to create jobs have been cut (as the reality of those schemes is many of the jobs ended up being public sector), it’s superb, and humanising, news that the Ministerial car pool is being shelved, and even better news that the frankly ludicrous child trust fund has been axed.

But amongst the many cuts announced this week you couldn’t help but feel that this was simply a prelude: the ’emergency’ (in all senses of the word) budget being where the sharpness of the axe really will be felt. I applaud the immediate cuts, but I’m mindful that in many cases these were the easy ones – the government has a really messy job ahead of it, because it isn’t just going to be expected to make cuts: it’s going to be expected to change whole sections of society’s outlook away from it being the Government’s core job to provide employment.

You see, the problem with all Labour governments is that they have all historically mixed up private and public sector, it doesn’t matter which one you’re in, so long as you’re working – except that’s economic nonsense: public sector jobs don’t generate wealth or tax revenue. While this is perfectly acceptable for core essential services (security, defence, health and teaching) it’s totally ludicrous anywhere else. Under New Labour the public sector exploded; whole towns and cities where unemployment was traditionally an issue suddenly found themselves awash with work opportunities – all paid for by the tax payer, and all – ultimately – doomed to be unaffordable.

This is the attitude we’re going to have to change, the coalition is going to have to make people understand that jobs created by government don’t raise tax revenue – they’re subsidised jobs paid for by an ever shrinking group of entrepreneurs and business owners and the people who work for them, the people by and large who have smaller pensions, work longer hours, have less holiday and less job security. There is something horrifically unfair about this – Labour perpetuated that it was all for the ‘fairer’ society – but it failed to do this miserably by creating a society where a huge proportion of the jobs were paid for by mugging Peter to pay Paul.

You can browse the Grauniad or any number of local authority websites to find the dredges of this era of profligacy at the private sector’s expense: Community street football advisors, Gypsy & Traveller Liaison Officer, Biodiversity awareness officers, vast numbers of ‘communications’ and ‘pr’ advisors – the list is as bizarre as it is endless; these non-jobs (as highlighted by the TPA) are a fallacy, and it’s going to take a long time to convince people that this society can do without endless state-sponsored jobs, and even longer to convince people that they can (in many cases) create their own wealth, start their own businesses, and most importantly that you can thrive in the private sector if you’re willing to throw away the unaffordable perks of being paid by the public purse.

A confession.

I don’t like Nadine Dorries, there I’ve said it.

I know for some she seems to walk on water – a rational voice in the melee some say, but there’s something fundamentally wrong with her that I can’t put my finger on. I’m not sure whether it’s that almost primal dislike of an operator that triggers something in the back of my head, or whether it’s the disdain of someone who even more than disliking an operator, despises a clumsy one.

There’s just too many stories about her, too many rumours, too many really frayed edges that just suggest that at some point there’s going to be an almighty unravelling – for someone that’s done so little she polarises opinion so very sharply you can’t help but wonder why.

The on-going spat with Tim Ireland seems to be a case in point – I don’t know Tim, I’ve followed his blog and tweets on and off for a while in amongst the hundred or so other political blogs that I read during the course of an average week; and I admit, he’s certainly a chap I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of – his long e-mails would be enough to reduce me to ranting, but he publishes his own stuff, he stands by his views, and that’s fine – that’s the point of having a place where you can air your views. What I don’t understand is this damaging row between him and Ms.Dorries – Both sides would seem to have enough evidence to take each other to the cleaners several times over, but neither moves, and with each encounter it becomes an ever more damaging scandal simmering to the side of the main action. There’s a lot of talk of legal action between the two camps: and it just doesn’t add up: if Nadine was telling the truth Tim would have been arrested by now, and at the very least a restraining order would be in place, if Tim was telling the truth and was willing to do something about it, this would be in the libel courts by now, and if true Nadine’s career would be over.

And then there’s the speaker’s rebellion, as reported here there was a strong rumour immediately after the election that there would be a coup on the speakers chair, and Bercow’s head would roll – but through what seems to be an entirely miscalculated and badly orchestrated campaign the ‘No’ vote was barely a small rabble, certainly not enough to draw from the roaring ‘yes’ that saw John Bercow dragged to the speakers chair for another Parliament. The e-mail that was circulated around the new MPs was feeble, patronising and frankly badly written, and if you believe Alan Haselhurst he wasn’t even asked whether he would be in the running – and after his name was spelt incorrectly in said e-mail, who can really blame him!

Add to that the allegations that came to light during the Daily Telegraph’s superb exposé of expenses where Nadine told Commons authorities that her second home is only a rented house in her constituency where she has claimed more than £18,000 in rent, but then went on to say that she only goes “somewhere else” during free weekends and the parliamentary recess – either to her holiday home in South Africa or the place she claims is her main residence which suggests her constituency house is in fact her main residence, which would mean she wouldn’t be able to claim for it using the £24,222 additional costs allowance meant to cover the cost of running a second property

And then there’s the spat with Damien McBride, the allegations in the Sunday Times that Dorries had commissioned a friend to create a leaflets and reports for her at taxpayers’ expense, and only this month the allegation that she’s facing an investigation into a mysterious £10,000 report that seems to have never been seen by anyone, not least the man alleged to have written it.

So there we are, reasons that I’m uncertain about Nadine Dorries, I’m not going to turn this into an on-going thing – but I felt I had to get it off my chest. I’d love her to properly counter these points with facts, and I’d go as far to actually invite her to do so. I’m never been a voter who considers MPs to be the lowest of the low, nor do I wish that they should be hung high for their peccadillos: I’m always open to having my opinion changed, but right here, right now I’m extremely uneasy with this increasingly prominent backbencher.

A sitting MP and Grindr…

Yesterday, Guido published a story and publicised it on twitter about a sitting MP he ‘found’ on grindr (a gay cruising application for iphone and blackberry), the story was up for about 20 minutes, people commented on it – and yet, suddenly it’s existence isn’t being acknowledged: it’s been wiped from various blogs, wiped from archives, totally unacknowledged. I don’t particular care for the story, it was a bit of a non-starter, people after all do have private lives; but the point remains that bloggers who talk about transparency in politics should be prepared to be so themselves, especially the more high-profile commentators who make the leap from blogging to broadcast media. If you’re going to publish a story stick by it, or officially retract it with reasons for doing so – don’t just wipe stuff from the public arena as all that does is damage the trust between your reader and you.

Parliament, re-opened

Yes, we’ve all read it before in the newspaper, but today the Queen re-opened Parliament with a speech which sounded rather different to what we’ve become used to, no huge focus on terrorism and no awful news-speak about helping families (with yet more benefits that keep the poor dependant). Instead we got something altogether different: the word de jour is freedom: Scrapping of draconian ID cards and ID databases, Measures to help bolster civil liberties, Powers to set up new schools and open more academies (which are in effect just grant maintained?), Fixed-term Parliaments are now properly on the agenda and a couple of referendums, first on the voting system (a/v) which seems to be linked to a promise of reform for the new rotten boroughs so we equal out the size of constituencies, and if anything happens in Europe now we’ve got a guarantee of referendum on future EU treaties or major changes of power-balance from the UK to the EU (and one would presume vice versa?).

In other news there’s going to be changes to financial regulation but no detail, changes to the police with elected police officials (good news) as well as restoring the pensions link to earnings, and the rather vague promise of more power for the Scottish Parliament: whether the coalition is feeling brave enough to properly tackle the West Lothian question has yet to be seen.

It was nice to see a speech that for the first time in a long time didn’t feel like it’d make us worse of democratically: I still think with the cuts and the world-economic problems coming up, but I do feel like the power of the people has been dramatically realigned. Now the coalition has to stick together to get these things through.

The law is an ass

This week we’ve seen a very dark day in England’s judicial history, it’s a week that’s seen two young boys placed on the sex offenders register after being tried by a jury in Court 7 at the Old Bailey: the crime – attempted rape, having been cleared of actual rape only a few days earlier. But these are children: by all accounts none when questioned had any understanding of the mechanics of rape or sexual behaviour, they’re simply children, and it’s an extremely dangerous day when we start criminalising this country’s children for exhibiting natural inquisitive childish behaviour.

Sure, we must try children who transgress into violent or aggressive acts, but all children experiment, often with others – and if we apply our horrified tabloid sexualisation to these fundamentally innocent act we run the risk of turning children and teenagers into monsters because we apply adult laws, adult thought and adult morals onto those too young to understand any of these things.

The simple fact is that none of those involved, certainly not an 8 year old girl should have known what sex was in any way that was complex enough to make an allegation – We’ve over sexualised our children, over-exposed them to a media and a culture that thinks children can be adults, and that’s just got to stop. We can’t go back to some golden age, because there never was one – kids have always figured out what is what in some respect, but please – can’t we just do enough to give our children back their childhood?

Expenses: the monster that just won’t die.

Parliamentry expenses is the monster under the bed that just won’t die: it’s once again rearing it’s ugly head as MPs complain that the new rules regarding expenses are unfair, we’ve heard it all – from MPs complaining they’re being treated like they’re on benefits to one MP bemoaning that it’s going to be unsafe to go home.

What happens on a January night in London? I suppose I will have to take the tube, then a bus and then a long walk home. That is not safe.

Well, that’s just awful – I know what I shall do, I’ll fund the police better, I’ll lock up the criminals, I’ll insist train companies fund proper staffing for their stations and I’ll work with councils to ensure that better late night transport routes are provided between hubs… oh wait, I can’t do that: that’s the job of my MP! If the streets are so unsafe for you, then guess what – they’re unsafe for everyone – so use the powers we invested in you to do something about it?

The level of stupidity and hypocrisy regarding expenses is truly staggering, the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority created to ‘solve’ the problem of duck houses, husband’s porn and flipping (or to give it it’s proper name ‘fraud‘) is an unwieldily behemoth. It’s generated a situation where for every transaction invoices are received, authorised and paid by MPs they’re then sent to IPSA where they’re re-checked, approved and reimbursed by IPSA – that’s a ludicrous waste of time. When the Sunlight Centre published their report Disinfecting Parliament last year they made a suggestion which draws on vast amounts of real experience from the private sector – that MPs should be issued with a debit or charge card on which all expenses must be charged: that way you get real time electronic tracking, no spending beyond agreed limits and a massive reduction in paperwork and manpower as the card issuer is already well placed to deliver accounts ready for immediate audit.

Here’s hoping that Cameron & Clegg take another leaf from the private sector and take steps to abolish the IPSA (an organisation which has just advertised for a £80,000+ marketing director at our expense). It’s my opinion that the IPSA is nothing but another wasteful quango creating work for itself and it’s beneficiaries when there’s a better solution available from the private sector… I’ve used company debit and charge cards for years, both for myself and my staff, and I see no good reason why this solution is not good enough for Parliament when it’s used by millions of private companies worldwide.

Labour’s Next Leader

Well it’s shaping up to either be an interesting fight, or the greatest fix since the last time they fiddled the votes: yes – once again, we’re choosing a Labour leader, and yes, you’ll have needed to be a Labour party member for an awfully long time to remember the last time they did that with any real dignity.

The contenders are the usual suspects for the most part, Ed Miliband, David Miliband and Ed Balls are the bookies choice at the moment, but there’s a few dark horses, not least Andy Burnham, Diane Abbott, and the seemingly very angry John McDonnall – they’d have also had John Cruddas if he hadn’t bottled it (again).

As an amused bystander you could dismiss this charade as a chance to crown another anointed leader, but I’m not sure that the grass roots is quite that stupid: they’ve seen what that gets them – so I’m a little confused that the Milibandits and Balls ticket is simply more of the same, with some toe-curling apologies thrown in: and if that were me, and I was a Labour voter, the sight of all three prostrating themselves in the popular press saying how wrong Iraq was the week my blood would be boiling: these people were in senior positions – they could have voted against Iraq, they could have spoken out, but they didn’t. And that’s not because they were blind to the issue, it’s because they were utterly spineless. So when voting for your next leader just remember that. Think carefully; does the country honestly need a spineless apologist as the leader of the opposition, and does the party need someone that can talk to the middle classes or reconnect with the C2 working class who entirely abandoned the Labour party (perhaps for good) at the last election.

If they’ve any sense they’ll look at the dark horses, Andy Burnham is a bit of an enigma to me – I’d be hard pressed to say where his priorities lay, and his low key press launch didn’t help: but the quietly spoken man shouldn’t be underestimated. His no-glitz approach might pay dividends (although someone should tell his web designer as the current design inspired this). Diane Abbott is a fascinating other runner: deeply entrenched in Labour’s London heartlands she’s popular with the people and the press, and although not entirely unfamiliar with controversy, you get the feeling that if she doesn’t crash and burn then she might do unexpectedly well: she’s certainly advocating a slight turn to the left for the party, and a reform of policy, especially where civil liberties are concerned. Finally there’s (at this moment) John McDonnall, he seems the most angry candidate, angry with the party, it’s policies, it’s centrism and the rise of focus group politics. He’d certainly move the party left – quite a long way left if he had the chance: and I think he is the one to watch to gauge how happy the party is with being in opposition.

It’s a long game – no resolution until September at the earliest: so it’s going to be a long dissection, and I get the feeling it won’t be a particularly pleasant one for the Labour party. If I were remotely interested in this in anyway beyond my own personal amusement my money would be on Ed Miliband: centerist enough generally but with a firm lean to the left when he needs it he’s remote enough from New Labour (compared to Balls and Miliband D) to potentially escape the brush that he’s just as tainted as all the others.

The ‘voice’ of the Tory grassroots

The last few days have seen the rise of something that I find a little distasteful; and that’s grandstanding by a few high profile conservative bloggers who don’t feel the coalition is right – Iain Dale commented only a few days ago that the requests for media appearances rather dried up after he came out in favour of a coalition – for other commentators however there just seem to be a never ending stream of invites, especially from the BBC and the Guardian, neither of which could be considered bastions of conservatism in any form in recent years.

I of course don’t have a problem with people having opinions – I’m full of them, and I’d fight to the death to defend people’s rights to have their own. No, my problem is the way opinions are being construed as fact, and facts that represent us all. Commentators like Tim Montgomerie for instance who keeps being introduced as the ‘voice’ of Tory Grassroots. Now, let me put this in perspective – I like Tim, I respect many of his views, even if some baffle me, but surely he must see that he’s being played? Not once have I heard a rebuttel that he’s not the defacto voice because of his editorship of ConHome, not once… it should be his opening gambit, he provides a platform for debate and has opinions that are his own, period.

It’s almost as if someone needs to explain to him and others – the media don’t like you, they appreciate that you’re eloquent yes, but moreso they appreciate that you’re willing to say what they want to say, when they want to say it. Coming from a background in broadcast journalism, you really don’t ever invite guests simply because they make noise, you want them to make noise that will draw the conclusions for the article you’re working on. And let’s be honest, the Conservatives have got enough problems with swivel-eyed backward looking politician like Tebbit still rattling his sabre as if he’s just stepped out of the cabinet office, without further commentary from you or others on BBC News seemingly supporting his position: believe me, he’s more than capable of making his views heard in a damaging enough way as it is.

If you believe some broadcast news from the past couple of weeks, you’d be led to believe that ConHome is representative – and it’s simply not. Nothing could be further from the truth – ConHome is representative of the people that write on it: it’s not the voice of conservatism I recognise a lot of the time. Many of the article comments regularly descend into personal abuse, games of I’m more conservative than you are, and it’s a home for Little-Englanders, UKIPers in denial and those that simply wish that Thatcher’s reign had never ended: and that’s all fine with me – it’s good that there’s a valve for discussion for those on that side of the Conservative party, but it’s not representative of the party, or many of the people in the party, or many people (like me) who aren’t members of the party but are at heart Liberally Conservative.

It’s certainly not representative of many centre right,  liberal, conservative, pro-european, pro-choice, pro-change people, and again, that’s fine – it doesn’t have to be, but let’s not let the media turn ConHome, and other blogs like it, into defacto ‘wholly-representative voices’… this game has been played before, it brought the Major government to it’s knees with Europe as the killer issue, and then after Blair’s landslide it kept the party and the whole idea of conservatism (of any sort) entirely toxic.

Conservatives strive to be personal, unique and self-determining, so debate is great – we need debate: but please, let these conversations be driven by us: not by the media – and not by a gross misrepresentation of a few online discussion places as the definitive voice that defines what everyone in the centre right must think and feel.

Bercow gets the Aye

So after what was about to go down in history as the longest point of order ever from Malcolm Rifkind, the house has spoken and despite a (reasonably) loud ‘no’: the ayes had it, and John Bercow was re-elected to the speakers chair.

I personally think this is the wrong decision, I didn’t like Nadine Dorries e-mail that made some statements that felt wrong, and didn’t really address any of the real issues of why Bercow is the wrong man, but hey. You simply can’t win them all; and we’ll have to live with Bercow all over again. Let’s hope he tones down the geography teacher act a little – it’s been stifling interesting debate and despite his protestations, I think it’s had the effect of quietening the backbenchers who in those moments of uproar would often be able to get in with a real blow at a minister who they might not always get the opportunity to address otherwise.

I do hope in his efforts to modernise he doesn’t cast off any more of the traditional elements of the speaker’s office. These are treasured parts of our national history: we just have to remember we’ve got a lot more history than most countries so our traditions seem ‘old-fashioned’ but it doesn’t stop nations younger than most of the buildings in whitehall keeping the traditions they were founded on even though it’s “the 21st century”: once history is lost, it’s lost forever – so please Mr Bercow: respect it.

Germany becomes Eurosceptic

There’s an interesting article today on ConservativeHome that puts forward a case that Germany has become Europe’s second eurosceptic nation, typical ConHome spin I hear you scream, but reading the German press and talking to friends in Germany it would seem not to be the case – there really is a genuine groundswell of annoyance and dismay with the European Union, a system which many Germans are now rumbling is unfairly biased it’s decisions toward latin nations for too long: a view that’s been long held by many in the UK – especially when it comes to the ludicrous con that is the CAP.

Now would be a very good time for our new coalition to stand strong with Germany: they’re our nearest neighbour in many ways: our cultures have so much in common and our position in Europe is similar economically – we’re both reliant on world trade (for Britain financially and for Germany in exports). Standing with Germany now would be a superb opportunity to force long needed reform on the EU which for so long has limped from one kludge to another.