Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Taking the long view

It is quite something that waiting a month before trying to reach an assessment of our new government feels laggardly.

So quickly does politics move now, that already the phrase "The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown" elicits no shock. The opinion polls that suggested a ten point tory lead when camparing Cameron to Brown have been shown to be as pointless as the intelligent always said they were. Jacqui Smith seems to be taking the country by storm, despite that embarrassing photo of her playing a rather dull drinking game.

As an aside. I feel sorry for the first generation of Facebook politicians. Every single photo of you looking stupid, drunk out of your mind, snogging some poor unfortunate, all uploaded, tagged, saved and secure for posterity, and by your friends too. Still, at least we'll get used to it quickly enough.

So a month in and where are we?

David Cameron is having a minor leadership crisis. How strange that seems. A mere season ago, he was expected to crush all beneath him. Commentators curled up at his feet. Office appeared to be merely a matter of time.

Today Cameron is on the edge of becoming a figure of fun. He's the husky loving, floppy haired, baby hugging, sikh guru embracing toff who made the fatal mistake of believing that the vital task that faced the Tories was to make themselves look nice.

I shall say it one more time. It was not "nastiness" that cost the Tory party power, it was screwing with peoples lives. So, don't go off to Rwanda, no matter how decent or worthy your intentions are. Explain to people why you'd make their lives better in the here and now.

I believe Cameron is more Gaitskill than Kinnock. He's facing the right direction and is personally popuar, but has a narrow base of support in his own party so cannot confront the huge issues that make his party vrtually unelectable. Add to that a huge whole in his policies for spending and taxation (No cuts in the NHS ever and lower taxation? Shurely shome mishtake...) and I think Cameron's destined to fail.

For the Government, It seems fated to suffer terrorist attacks and natural disasters, and to handle them reasonably well. I do find it strange that it's more acceptable to criticise the Government for allowing storms to flood rivers than failing to prevent terrorist attacks. (It strikes me that only one of these two is withing the power of human intervention).

The new cabinet is being quiet, methodical and slightly dull. It's all rather mature. Denham, Balls, Darling, Hutton, Straw. It's a government of the quietly competent lieutenants. The governmet, drained of the bitterness of the last few years seems focussed on getting on with the job, suddenly feeling that if they just do what they're supposed to, The election will be theirs.

On the negative side, I worry that the Government is a little quiet on the issue of crime and anti-social behaviour. We easily forget how big an issue this is for people, and it's an issue that will not go away.

This is a government of serious, policy minded people, which means they might be a little too attentive to their statistics that tell them crime is falling, rather than to the marketeers and focus group merchants who tell them the public are concerned. Cameron's best moment in the last fortnight came on prisoner release. He'll be tempted back onto this agenda soon.

So one month in.

Things going pretty well.

A long way still to go.

Carry on, Gordon, carry on.

<< Home

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm not blogging about the new PM or the reshuffle..

...because I'm sick of reading and listening to endless breathless reports about what might or might not happen, generally produced by people who know only a fraction more than their audience about what is happening.

Once it's done, and we know the shape of the Government there will be a lot to talk about, but until then, it's all so much froth and blether.

I think the content of the entire political coverage yesterday could be summed up as "New PM takes over. Old PM leaves, details to follow".

Until then I'm content to wish the Prime Minister well, and to say thank you to Tony Blair.

<< Home

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Quentin Davies

Devastating stuff.

...Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything.It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda...

...The trouble with trying to face both ways is that you are likely to lose everybody's confidence. Aside from the rather significant issues of principle involved, you have of course paid a practical price for your easy promises...

...It is fair to say that you have so far made a shambles of your foreign policy, and that would be a great handicap to you - and, more seriously, to the country - if you ever came to power...

...One day in January, I think a Wednesday or Thursday, you and George Osborne discovered that Gordon Brown was to make a speech on the environment the following Monday. You wished to pre-empt him. So without any consultation with anyone - experts, think tanks, the industry, even the Shadow Cabinet - you announced an airline or flight tax which as you have subsequently heard from me in a long paper (which has never been refuted) and I am sure from many others, is certainly defective and contradictory - and in my view complete nonsense...

...Equally it seems that your hasty rejection of nuclear energy as a 'last resort' was also driven by your PR imperatives rather than by other considerations. Many colleagues hope that that will be the subject of your next u-turn...

...Of course I could go on - up to three weeks ago when you were prepared to stoop to putting forward a resolution on Iraq (demanding an inquiry while our military involvement continues) which it was admitted at a Party meeting the following Monday (by George Osborne in your presence) was motivated by party political considerations. That was a particularly bad moment...

...Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve...

...I do not intend to leave public life. On the contrary I am looking forward to joining another party with which I have found increasingly I am naturally in agreement and which has just acquired a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share.

<< Home

Monday, June 25, 2007

A wonderful day...

We have a new leader who has the intellect, drive and passion to be a great Prime Minister.

We're ahead in the polls.

The agenda of housing, social justice and a focus on playing by the rules Gordon set out yesterday, is exactly where we should be.

I'm delighted by the thought Gordon's clearly put into revitalising the policy process, especially the suggestion of a final voice for the membership in policy decisions.

So I'm very, very happy.

It's cheesy but true.

Having got that fawning out of my system, On to the Deputy leadership election.

I'd rather Alan had won, but clearly Harriet fought a strong campaign, which is a good sign that she will be good at her job.

Obviously, I disagreed with Harriet's policy direction during the campaign, but she's an intelligent, capable politician who will give real focus on the issue of social justice while being very loyal to the leader.

Her victory in the members section of the ballot shows she's in real touch with the membership of the party.

She deserves the support of every Labour activist, and I wish her all the best.

After all, those of us on the right of the party are known for demanding loyalty to the leadership. That works both ways.

I did put her 5th though.

<< Home

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A few quick points..

it's been a busy, long day in the boring world of real work... so just a few quick points may expand upon on the morrow, though I might get dristracted by Big Brother, kittens, or watching iPhone adverts repeatedly (I waaaant one. I waaaaaaaaant it now).

1. It seems obvious that this was a real serious offer. I don't thinkk any Prime Minister has casually offered a cabinet job to a member of an opposition party. So here ends the Brown the control freak machine politician theme. This guy is serious about reaching out.

2. I fail to see what is dirty and underhand about offering a cabinet job to a member of an opposition party. I really don't. Briefing the press that your leader is an alcoholic is dirty politics, but offering some lords ministerial jobs? I mean, this all happened on Monday, and it took the Liberals until todday to get utterly horrified? Pleeeease.

This is obviously fake outrage, designed to save Ming Campbell from a mauling by rampaging herd (collective noun time- a Bore? a Beard? an Opik?) of Lib dem MPs - so treat it with scepticism. If it took Ming Campbells sources until now to be outraged by the offers, he aint that outraged.

3. What exactly do the Lib Dems want? Yes, yes, More votes and more seats. But for the exponents of consensus politics they seem to get pretty bolshy whenever anyone actually offers them a Consensus.

In the last three months alone they have, for reasons of high principle, turned down coalitions or jobs offers with the following parties: SNP, Labour, Conservative and Plaid Cymru. That is, you may have noticed, also a list of every other mainland party represented in the House of Commons.

Will the Liberal Democrats enlighten us to the nature of the party with whom they are prepared to have a consensus with? Would they agree to enter into government with the DUP, perhaps?

4. Where's the Labour outrage? I could imagine a time when the thought of a Labour Prime Minister, A Labour prime minister, scuttling around westminster in a Government car handing out job offers right left and centre would have summoned forth a lusty bellow of rage from the swamp primeval of the Labour heartlands. Today, apart from the mildest of criticisms from John McDonnell, we heard nothing.

I'm sure that some Labour activists are horrified, but the party has shown incredibly impressive discipline so far. Maybe, just maybe we're a party that really wants to stay in power. If so, that will make me happier than anything I can imagine. Apart from the aforementioned Iphone, obviously.

<< Home

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fantasy cabinet!

I know, people, it's hard hacking away when you don't know quite who to suck up to.

So why not play fantasy cabinet, a cute little game created by a lobbying company called four communications..

It's nicely done, although it's missing Caroline Flint, Jim Murphy, Dawn Primarolo and Bob Ainsworth. I don't think each of these are very likely, but they're just as likely as some of the names that are on the list....

<< Home

I am a sage and a visionary.

They laughed at me, they did. Well OK, they mostly ignored me, but I was right, oh yes, oh yes.

Oh, hello. Didn't see you there.

Today, I am talking to myself about Labour and the Libdems getting together and having a big party around the cabinet table, which is the subject of todays front page splash in the Guardian and a nice piece of catchupwork by the BBCs Nick Robinson.

Well it just goes to show that you should pay attention to me, because guess what I said, (to a storm of indifference) six months ago.

"political reality is more important than my hatred of the Liberal Democrats, and
reality says it might soon be time to reach a deal with them....

"...So why shouldn’t Labour offer left of centre Lib Dems a deal ahead of the next general election?

"We could offer either a coalition, or a deal with 30 or so Liberal Democrats interested in forming a Social Democrat caucus after the next General election...

"...If the offer were made from a position of strength, it would mean an unprecedented openness- shooting for good the idea that Gordon Brown would lead a Gormenghast administration.

"The Liberal Democrats would win by ensuring a secure place in Government, by securing a more European foreign policy and wining major policy debates on multilateralism, the environment, civil liberties and yes, Electoral Reform. "

Honestly, I don't think we're close to a coalition offer, or even a couple of cabinet places. The internal politics of both parties would make that very difficult. Yet the beginnings of a rapprochemont could well be good politics for both leaders.

Gordon Brown needs to spike tory claims he's a tribal, sour faced, grumpy man who wants to steal childrens sweeties. Ming Campbell needs to be able to offer the prospect of real power to his troops. After all, they're now in opposition in Scotland and Wales and the polls don't look stunning.

So, a senior LibDem playing a key role in Government? Well, there's the example of Lord Carlile. Paddy Ashdown is still very popular. Some kind of joint policy work? Perhaps opening debates on the constitution and civil liberties that Lib Dems care passionately about?

Whatever it is, this news indicates that Gordon Brown is very much thinking of the politics of the UK in the long term, and knows that building a progresive consensus is the key to victory. He also seems to understand the importance of dealing from strength.

Although I codially loathe and despise Liberal Democrats and am delighted they feel the same, I'm glad that Gordon Brown is able to see the bigger picture. I hope the same can be said for the rest of both parties.

<< Home

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cameron 2 - The soundbite strikes back

Are David Cameron's speechwriters trying to turn him into a parody of himself or a parody of Tony Blair at his most blethersome?

What a speech. What a crock. Cameron badly needs a new speechwriter.

First up, He keeps on with some horribly mixed metaphor.

"then, brick by brick, you build your house. That is the plan I laid out when I became leader of this Party and that is exactly the plan we’ve been following.

We started by preparing the ground. We stopped fooling ourselves that we’d get a different result with the same old tunes."

What is he talking about here? The barn raising scene in Seven brides for seven brothers?

Then neart the end there's this: "we can be clear about the shape of the house we’re building. It’s designed to deliver collective security, as the platform for individual opportunity." It's a safe house, with a platform for individuals to jump off? Will the platform be on the balcony?

Second, stop this horrible meaningless soundbite overload.

"this amazing country, in this amazing century"
on this amazing planet, in this amazing galaxy.

"Our Society. Your Life."
Our House. Your Wife.
Our Money. Your Life.
Our Pistol. Your Knife.

"what a life it can be if we enable people to make the most of the modern world."
Also, I believe that children are the future. Treat them well and let them lead the way.

"Your life is just that – yours, not mine."
So we can't swap?

"Stand Up, Speak Up."
If you're going to quote Marley, It's "get up, stand up". Or is Cameron copying Nike's anti racism Campaign?

Also, please stop it with the weirdly sweeping statements.

Did you know that "There are technologies that will give us the energy to power the world without wrecking the planet"?
Where can we get these then? I have literally no idea what technology this is. Cold fusion? Windmills? Nuclear power? Giant Cows producing Methane?

I also didn't know that "We have communications which overcome every obstacle not just of distance but of culture – making one world." We do? Really? So If I want to talk to a Korean but I can't speak Korean, we can chat away merrily?

Next, please don't critique your opponents for one thing, then do that self same thing a few moments later.

Here Cameron critiques Labour for policymaking in response to bad headlines:
"We’ve had ten years of short-term initiatives announced to get headlines in the papers. People have had enough of Labour’s fast-food politics: they want something more serious and more substantial. "

Yes! Enough of policy making on the fly. Get a policy right and stick with it. Whatever you do, don't make up a new policy in response to bad headlines. Like on Grammar schools. Stick with the tough policies.

What's the latest line on that by the way, Dave? We're not going to redo our policies to get a headline are we?

"More setting and streaming, with a ‘grammar stream’ in every subject in every school." .

Oh, right.

Even worse, he then does it again- within two sentences.

"Not copying New Labour, but learning from its mistakes."

Yeah! No copying New Labour!

"Not abandoning Conservative principles, but applying them in new ways to new challenges."

Yeah! Copying New Labour's "traditional values in a Modern setting"!

This speech is just blether. If this is his renewal, he's in worse trouble than I thought.

<< Home