Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Home Office meltdown: disgrace

John Reid's announcing that the Home Office is "not fit for purpose". After nine years of Labour Government whose fault is that? Whilst John Reid's frankness and apparent willingness to square up to the civil service (the Cabinet Secretary ruled out jobs being at risk after all the calamities - Reid told MPs not to bet on it) is to be applauded, how his Government can retain any credibility at all is quite beyond me.

There can only be one person who has to be responsible for what appears to be the complete meltdown of a vital Government department. That's the Prime Minister. The juicy irony is that if Reid can live up to his rhetoric and at least give the Home Office a semblance of professionalism he will surely be doing himself great favours when it comes to any race to replace that same PM. Hearing of his committed approach I have to admit I even find myself warming to him. I'm sure the same can't be said of Gordon Brown's response.

In the meantime, Blair, Straw, Blunkett, Clarke: j'accuse.

Cherie signs Hutton Report to raise funds

This isn't scandalous. It's sick.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What tragic news about the passing away of Eric Forth. He was a great man, a committed Parliamentarian and someone of great passion and conviction. There are too few like him.

Bingo Boris

Boris Johnson is quite right. Lecturers on strike who make sure that students do not receive their exam results - for which, after all, they are now paying - should have their wages docked. Particularly in light of the attempted pressure the AUT sought to bring on the Government in relation to tuition fees - on the basis, remember, that they piously had students' interests at heart while the Government was concerned with its bottom line - it is quite staggering that out of such blatant self-interest they now seek to cause such chaos for those self-same students.

Anyone would have thought they sensed a weak Labour movement in Parliament...

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Millibabble? We at least have to answer

I'm often quick to mock David Milliband but to get where he is in the Labour Party he must at least have some political nous. Here he is in today's Observer. In an otherwise anodine, tedious and fairly childish interview he does come out with this gem:

"The two traditions of Conservative politics that have co-existed for the last 100 years - the commitment to open markets and a commitment to stability and order, what we used to call Victorian values - are dramatically at odds".

Thought-provoking challenge to which the Tories must find an answer. Maintaining this coalition is key to future success of the Party. Hopefully I can try to get to grips with my answer over the next week.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Class in politics

Question Time last night was a cracking programme. With one of the best line-ups for a long time - Michael Heseltine, Hazel Blears (Labour Party Chairman), Ming Campbell and Piers Moron - the political climate of today and, I'd suggest, the next few years was mapped out brilliantly.

Blears blathered and was really under the cosh. It was most surprising that Campbell made an appearance since there is something of a convention that party leaders are not expected to take part; perhaps he realises things are going so badly for him he needs to do drastic surgery on his own leadership. If so his situation really is dire. He rambled but made some telling points in what must have been a fairly disappointing appearance for him. I'm at home in the Midlands on business at the moment and I almost felt sorry for the old guy when he sent my Dad to sleep during one answer before his neck began twitching uncontrollably after an audience member had declared his party had no chance of Government. Piers Morgan (whose new "First" publication I had thrust into my hand at Paddington is truly dire trash) was typically reactionary but a solid, entertaining commentator.

But Michael Heseltine, despite a start which could have thrown him as he appeared unsure of his facts was... sublime. It dawned on me last night just how lightweight many of today's politicians really are. They don't seem to have the charm, subtlety, class or even, dare I say it, intelligence of the titans of yesteryear. From his forensic attack on Blears as to where blame lay for lack of resources for counter-terrorism in the Home Office, through to his defence of Cameron and his assessment of how to tackle fears over immigration without harming the economy the man oozed class. I haven't warmed to him much before - last night I saw what had made him great.

Which leads me on to a discussion I had in the pub last week with a friend who works as a researcher in the House of Commons. We mused how politics was no longer a pursuit for Great Men and mourned the passing of a time when we had real leaders of stature. The release of the Priority List just reinforces this perception. As a society we seem to want people who will make sympathetic noises which we want to hear; notwithstanding that we then gripe that politicians only say what they think we want to hear. We punish those who will stand up for what they believe is right and work to bring us with them. This will never be enough to allow us to respond to real challenge or adversity. Let us hope privilege, conviction and class become popular once more. This, though, requires us to take a brave stand.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Rejoice, but not too much

Rejoice! Today's Populus poll for the Times is excellent, fabulous news. The message from the news of the last week is that the Conservatives are back. For the first time in a long, long time, the Tories look in fine fettle. Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done.

A resurgent bounce by Labour would bring us all but neck-and-neck and it only then takes a very small "stop the Tories" swing from the LDP to nose Labour ahead and end any prospects of a majority. The next four percent, to the early 40s, are the most crucial and must remain the focus of the Parliamentary Party and CCHQ. Most encouraging, however, in this regard is the bounce for the Tories from "don't knows" with Brown projected as Labour leader. Now back to work...

Friday, May 05, 2006

...and there's more bull from Blair

What has changed in the last five days?

On 30 April, a Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister was "totally supportive of the home secretary in resolving the problems that he has been addressing over the last few days".

On 5 May, Tony Blair sacks Charles Clarke as Home Secretary.

I know the Prime Minister's credibility and integrity is in complete tatters anyway but I just can't see how he can square this. The debacle which the prison-release scandal has become casts a shadow of shame over all those in Government even loosely associated with it. That includes Number 10 and its disingenuous, arrogant and high-handed attitude in pretending it wasn't really an issue at all and sweeping away any remnants of the convention of ministerial responsibility.

What a night

What a great night for the Tories. Vast progress at the expense of Labour and with the LDP going nowhere.

The other big theme seems to be the BNP and I fear that here we are in grave danger of becoming overly paranoid about a tiny, bizarre political movement which will only assist it. The BNP should not worry us overly but it should be, in the spirit of British debate, ritually humiliated and shown up for what it is. Incoherent, hate-filled nonsense. As Jonathan Dimbleby demonstrates most ably here. Watch it. It is just what we should all be doing, Margaret Hodge included, rather than beating our breasts.

Finally, with the breaking news of the Cabinet reshuffle and the sacking of Clarke and demotion of Straw, I have to ask whether there has ever been a more misjudged or flawed reshuffle in modern history. Much as I dislike that pair I do have a sneaking respect for them both. Reid and Beckett don't have anything on them and cannot really be seen as a genuine breath of fresh air. They are, to coin a phrase, a step backward not forward. A sign perhaps that, for Labour, the worm has turned.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Lower and lower. Cheaper and cheaper.

Just heard the rumours about the Cabinet reshuffle which is supposedly going to take place tomorrow to overshadow the news of Labour's bloody nose at the local elections. It has been so obvious that it would be abused in this way way for months that it surely can't have the effect Downing Street must be hoping. The Blair administration is now so far past parody it is becoming humiliating for those involved. Such stunts now merely reinforce Labour's perceived flaws: pathetic obsession with managerialist appearances masking an underlying incompetence.

Blair would be better sticking to his General Election tactic of pre-ballot hand-wringing and blood-letting than offering further evidence of his blinding arrogance in a vain attempt to convince the electorate it's not misplaced.

The non-party party

Back in. Totally cream-crackered. Just heard a fascinating clip on the BBC coverage. Girl at bar is interviewed and asked about how she voted. She replied that she wasn't really party political so uses her vote tactically. So who did she vote for? Oh, the LibDems. I can't help but feel this accounts for a fair share of the LibDem support - people who don't identify themselves as party animals although they don't like the current direction of things feel they can vote for the LibDems as a non-party-party. Hence Campbell's leadership, from the polls, could be seen as an apparent success relatively speaking despite any public leadership at all.

What's regrettable is hearing this having today seen, again, just how much LibDem campaigning contributes to public cynicism with "politicians".

The dilemma for the party is just how sustainable this will prove when it comes to breaking through the third-party glass ceiling.

Polling Day 2006

A very brief post just to apologise for inactivity. You can blame local elections. Just having a quick break for a brief lunch. Lovely day for it down in London which would seem likely to exaggerate any swing with interested voters easier to pull out. We shall see... Mood on the doorsteps ever more receptive.