Friday, January 19, 2007

Well, who'd have thought it...

So Ruth Turner has been arrested (but not charged), in relation to the "Cash for Honours" investigation. It's not good news for the Government, or for the PM and will make very uncomfortable reading tomorrow.

I'm still of the opinion that there's little likelihood of any charges at the end of this investigation. The investigation must be close to wrapping up and I think this is part of the last steps before a file being sent to the CPS (After what, six months? I wish they'd cared this much when I was burgled. The guy stole about ten kilos of coppers. Surely that's traceable!).

However, I know nothing and have no sources, just gut feel.

<< Home

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Are we nearly there yet?

God, politics is boring at the moment.

On the one side we have a government that has delivered most of it's legislative agenda, and is confident of winning it's major parliamentary battles (Trident, Anti-Social Behaviour legislation, Pensions, Child Support and Welfare reform) while trying to ride out growing public and media discomfort over the huge issues of Health, Crime and the Economy.

Incidentally, these newly tough areas are all cases where the government's record is perfectly respectable, but where a dearth of real crisis has lead to an overheated series of headlines that a few weeks later are then recycled into lower poll ratings. It's against this background that the Home Office "scandals" of recent weeks should be judged. Not to underestimate the importance of them, but how big an issue can something really be when it is wiped of the face of political discourse by a racism row on Celebrity Big Brother?

Yet really, all of this is mere political washing up. We've got six months until we have a new Prime Minister, and a lot of decent work can be done in that time. But it will be the politics of the small step forward, as big changes will have to wait. So we wait too.

On the other side, we have what appears to be a vacuous announcement-a-day strategy from the Conservatives. Today's Spectator seems to suggest that a Conservative Government will ask Mcdonalds to put the price of Hamburgers up.

This appears to be yet another initiative where the Tories boldly set out a political stance they have no intention of doing anything about; just like their stances on Chocolate Oranges, food miles and hugging hoodies.

Cameron's political aim appears merely to be to take the state out of the nanny state, leaving us with a nanny PM telling us what to eat, how to be happy and that we should be nice to the oiks. Quite appropriate for a shadow cabinet of public schoolboys, but ultimately useless.

More seriously, all this stuff is a straight lift from the Republican's position on "faith-based initiatives" in the run up to the 2000 election. In both cases, what is being rhetorically proposed is the insertion of the volutary, religious and community sector into areas where the problems are difficult and intractable, in the hope that without spending more money you will get better results.

It's a lovely idea, if it works. You get better services, for the same money, from people who _really care_. It's why George Bush talked a lot about unleashing the armies of compassion, and then what happened when he got into office?

Lets go to the tape, or this case the first White House Director of the Office of Faith-Based inititives. John DiIulio

"Even more revealing than what happened during the first 180 days is what did not, especially on the compassion agenda beyond the faith bill and focusing on children.

"Remember "No child left behind"? That was a Bush campaign slogan. I believe it was his heart, too.

"But translating good impulses into good policy proposals requires more than whatever somebody thinks up in the eleventh hour before a speech is to be delivered, or whatever symbolic politics plan—"communities of character" and such—gets generated by the communications, political strategy, and other political shops.

"During the campaign, for instance, the president had mentioned Medicaid explicitly as one program on which Washington might well do more. I co-edited a whole (boring!) Brookings volume on Medicaid; some people inside thought that universal health care for children might be worth exploring, especially since, truth be told, the existing laws take us right up to that
policy border.

"They could easily have gotten in behind some proposals to implement existing Medicaid provisions that benefit low-income children. They could have fashioned policies for the working poor.
"The list is long. Long, and fairly complicated, especially when—as they stipulated from the start—you want to spend little or no new public money on social welfare, and you have no real process for doing meaningful domestic policy analysis and deliberation."

Fast forward to 2007. We have a good hearted but policy light opposition leader talking about the importance of society, but giving no sign of thinking about how any of this will work. Take the pledge to free charities from red tape. Sounds goodn no? Unfortunately, the red tape like are things like the Criminal Records bureau checks which, according to Cameron's Chamberlain lecture, help strangle creativity in the voluntary sector. So to put it another way, Charities will be better able to deliver services becuase they won't have to bother with tedious paperwork like whether they're employing criminals. I'm sure the Home Office cut cut it's costs and save itself a whole lot of bother by applying the same approach.

The point of this is not to say that Cameron's insticts are wrong, or he's a bad, bad, person. I don't believe either are particulaerly true. It's simply to say that Tory policy on this is so superficial that to take it seriously is to trap yourself in a morass of contradictory urges, un-thought-through policy pledges and vague aspirations. There is no sense of what would actually happen to make these mythical changes. Which means of course that none of it will happen, and we'll instead end up with the old mantras of contracting out, increasing effiency and cutting down on the public jobs bonanza.

As I said, boring. Important, but utterly boring. The trouble is that although Cameron is spouting total guff, revealing it to be guff is so dull that no-one cares.

Thank god for Lembit and the Cheeky Girl.

<< Home