Hague, The Arrogant

February 26, 2011

Hague, the younger

How arrogant of William Hague to be so furious with the foreign office that he considered publically criticising them following his disastrous previous week.

Perhaps it has escaped his attention that the foreign office has employed the same civil servants since the election as it did before, but the foreign office showed little incompetence under that administration.

Several days after other countries evacuated their people; the British finally chose to act. According to the Guardian, the government was worried that Libya might be offended by an evacuation, and that this may affect future business opportunities.

Indeed, it is important for business people to consider carefully whether they wish to leave a country during a crisis. Those who stay during the difficult times, earn enormous respect from the population and find that when the situation calms their business interests will prosper.

But surely this is a decision for the individual businessperson not for the British government. And surely the families of the business people should be evacuated regardless. Did Mr Hague consider the families at all?

For the government to dither for days, placing business interests over the lives of British citizens is an extraordinary dereliction of duty and suggests that the values of the Conservative-led government are misguided.

Yet they present a facade of integrity which seems dubious by their actions.

Mr Cameron, on a perfectly legitimate arms running exercise to a neighbouring Arab state, had the cheek to claim that part of his mission was to promote democracy and British values. As if we’re expected to believe that he interrupted his delicate negotiations to sell arms in order to lecture the Arab customers on the benefits of elections.

Meanwhile, Mr Clegg appears not to have realised that he was running the country while Mr Cameron was abroad. When asked in an interview whether he is in charge he said “Yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that.”

Then he promptly went on holiday to his apartment in an exclusive Swiss skiing resort and only returned once the government was accused of being in chaos.

You get the impression that these people are not professional politicians. They don’t seem to have a clear set of principles or policies on which to base their decisions.

It’s as if the country is being run by a bunch of gentleman amateurs, who decided on a Swiss ski slope that they were offended by the Labour Party being in charge, and that they should jolly well do something about it.

But we don’t want gentleman amateurs running this country. We want professional politicians who know the job and have a history of public service rather than city bonuses.

With another four years to run, I worry that this country will be irreparably damaged by the time the British public have a chance to get them out.


Cable dumps Nuclear to go Right

February 24, 2011

Vince Cable has begun the political-fight back following his damaging “nuclear” remarks, by proving that he can be more right-wing than the Tories.

Cable leads the Dance

Today in the Guardian: “Free councils to keep bulk of cash raised through business rates. Richer boroughs will no longer see income from their businesses going to subsidise poorer parts of the country.”

A government minister said, “They will be free councils, and the idea is that they have a real incentive for the first time to encourage business in their locality.”

However this takes no account of the natural tendency for cities to develop separate business and residential areas, with workers commuting between the two. Banks in the City of London are not going to place themselves in Edmonton, nor are workers in Edmonton going to live in the City just because they work there. One area is for business, and the other area is for residence.

If financial responsibility for the vulnerable were borne only by the residential area, without a contribution from the business area, then the residential area would have to massively increase tax, or refuse to support the vulnerable.

If the policy was taken to the next logical stage, whereby no distribution existed between the rich and poor residential areas, then the residential area with large social provision would be plunged into further financial difficulties.

The result of this would be that the poor residential areas would have to increase taxes, which would cause the employed to move to an area with few vulnerable people and therefore lower taxes. This polarising effect would be the result of what the government calls “Localism”.

But the business secretary, Vince Cable, wanted to extend “localism” by allowing councils to vary the business rate. This would have the perverse outcome of allowing the City of London, with its huge number of large companies and virtually no social provision, to set a business rate close to zero.

Under Cameron, it’s always been about language. “Free” is the pre-cursor for schools (and now councils) to be released from all obligations to the wider community. “Localism” is a word that sounds like socialism but when applied by the Tory –led Government, it doesn’t have much to do with community.

Vince Cable was seriously damaged by his attitude towards the government he serves when he made remarks to a journalist describing his power over the coalition as “Nuclear”. It seems that he is now behaving himself by pushing forward policies that will be popular with the right-wing Tory leadership.

However, his new-found political positioning is more right-wing than many Tories. Margaret Thatcher introduced the redistributive element of Business rates because her government recognised that the business districts had an obligation to support the residential districts.

It seems that Cable is well on his way to becoming an important non-nuclear part of the government leadership. He may well prove himself useful as a cover for their right-wing instincts.

From now on, whatever he says should be followed extremely closely.


Divorce Policy will Incentivise False Allegations

February 23, 2011

photo: Dr John Bullas


Well done, the Tories. Another policy classic from the stupid party.

Now women are going to be incentivised to make false allegations against their partners if they want to get a solicitor. The new legal aid rules restrict representation to those who have suffered domestic violence.

Imagine the conversation outside the school gates on how to get a solicitor. “All you have to do is say that he pushed you. Then it becomes a domestic. Don’t think he wouldn’t do it to you.”

There have been huge resources poured into domestic violence over recent years. The “Positive Arrest” policy means that any allegation of even the smallest touch during an argument must result in the accused being arrested and investigated.

The wishes of the apparent victim are not taken into account for fear that conflicting loyalties will pervert justice, although to take such a strong line can be a perversion of common sense.

Often, when the best advice is for one of them to stay at a friend’s for the night, the actual outcome is that one of them spends 18 hours in a police cell. This can cause considerable bitterness at a time when the relationship is already in trouble.

Under the Positive Arrest policy, a full investigation is then carried out by specially trained officers of CID status. A defence solicitor is provided and the CPS makes the disposal decision. The cost must be considerable.

The perfectly reasonable logic behind this policy is that by investigating the smallest incidents of domestic conflict, the bigger incidents become less likely, so the potential is nipped in the bud, as it were. This whole process can best be described as a glorified risk assessment, but it eats up so much resource that less is available for the genuine serious incidents.

Men and women are just as malicious as each other, but the malice presents itself in different ways. If a man wishes to be vicious to a woman, he is more likely to use his fists feet or penis. If a woman is vicious to a man she is more likely to do it by proxy. I’ll get my brother onto you; I’ll spread a nasty rumour, or I’ll make a false allegation.

It’s also worth remembering that men can also be victims of the violence of women, but are highly unlikely to report it to the police. The macho psychology of men manifests itself in an “I can handle it” attitude.

One of the most common defences is that she is lying in order to get him out of the flat, so she can have possession, or to keep custody of the children. Whether or not his defence is truthful, the situation will not be helped by further incentives such as the promise of a solicitor and barrister in the divorce court, in return for an allegation made to the police.

The government believes that money will be saved by withdrawing the right to legal advice, but the opposite is often the outcome. Family courts are highly emotional and the legal advice provides focus.

Without advice litigants arrive with arguments such as, “She doesn’t deserve custody because she turned up five minutes late”. Genuine and worthy issues don’t come to the fore due to the confusing emotions involved in the breakup.

The Tories are trying to present this policy by highlighting the mediation service prior to court business. This service is the successful policy of the Labour Party, with the single innovation that couples will be forced to attend the service rather than the voluntary service previously.

Mediation is by its nature a process achieved by co-operation, so it’s unlikely to improve on the current service.

However, it is worth noting the way that the Tories always try to cover up cuts by presenting something apparently positive. It’s just a shame that they have so few ideas themselves that they have to appropriate successful Labour policies and present them as their own.

Let’s hope people see through them by the time of the next election.


Volcano Smoke of Cleggamania

February 22, 2011

A volcano exploded, spreading chocking black smoke across the scene. Beams of light, from a cathode tube, darted through the billowing clouds. A TV screen for the British Isles. Three white middle-aged men. Only one could win. In the X-Factor election of 2010, the volcano was in British politics, and they named it Cleggamania.


Ever since the science of polling had been born, no one had seen anything like it. The Liberal Democrats surged 50% following the first 90 minute screening of the X-Factor debates. Some said he was in the lead.

A new political star was born. But in the polling day that followed, they ended up with fewer seats than previous. What went wrong with Cleggamania?

In the Cowley Street HQ, the Lib Dem support staff were confused by the polls. Their canvas returns were not detecting the surge. What the pollsters were recording was not what was happening in the target seats.

In the same way that news was telling us of the volcanic ash heading our way from Iceland, all we could see was clear blue sky. Cleggamania was in the news, but didn’t seem real. In fact, it was happening, but everywhere that the Lib Dems were not campaigning.

Cleggamania was the excitement of people who don’t normally follow politics, who don’t normally vote and who have no Lib Dem exposure in their constituency.

As the smoke of the Cleggamania craze billowed across the country, the party didn’t know how to react. All their literature was designed to raise the party’s profile. Now they were now fighting a different campaign.

Meanwhile, their grass roots campaigners were dispersing. The X-Factor election had gone to their heads. Rather than descending on the target seats, they began to insist they could win their own constituencies.

They became thin on the ground in all the places that mattered, deluded that the magic of Cleggamania had finally given them the breakthrough. They believed that the Liberal Democrats were finally going to win.

In the same way that stars are born, under the altruistic gaze of Simon Cowell, only to fade before the day is out, it all ended in tears. Cleggamania was never real. It was just a TV show.

The Lib Dem HQ had poured their resources into 100 target seats, 30 of which they already held. But then came polling day. They ended the campaign with fewer seats than they started. Cleggamania was all an illusion.

Lord Chris Rennard


Photo by David Spencer
Rennardism is the name the Lib Dems gave their strategy. After Lord Rennard, the mastermind behind their “incremental targeting” strategy. One bloke takes a council seat. His mates come out and they take the neighbouring seat, then the next. Then one of them goes for the parliamentary prize. That’s the strategy.

Their campaigning was ruthless. Conduct a survey and discover an issue. A broken bus-stop, or a dilapidated park bench. Make it a campaign and promise the people everything tomorrow.

This was local campaigning at its most grass roots and where ever they were successful, they attracted the Lib Dems activists, who moved like a flock of starlings, cross country, to where ever the new target seat had been named.

But by 2008 the incremental strategy had stalled. The other parties were onto them and their tactics. It was getting tough out there.

The Lib Dems deposed their drunken leader and put in a posh bloke, then got rid of him and put in a young bloke, Clegg, but still they were falling in the polls. They were doing better when the drunk was in charge.

There must be an answer. They had to make that break from the side-lines to the mainstream of British politics. Then came the break; the X-Factor election. Then came the disappointment at the polls. Then came the misery of coalition politics.

It’s difficult to imagine the disintegration of the Liberals; they’ve been around for so long. But that’s what it’s come to. They have failed in their objectives.

The failure is not their own fault. They existed as an alternative to the British Class system, so well represented by Labour and the Tories. But the class system has faded till it barely exists in modern British society.

Their party is made up of a peculiar mix. The left of the party is far to the left of Labour, yet the right is where two thirds of their seats exist. There is no coherence in the politics of this party and there’s little point in being the underdog, when all reasonable chance of ever succeeding has faded.

Nick Clegg has become so close to David Cameron you’d think they were brothers. Meanwhile, the Lib Dem candidates that failed to find a seat in the last election are co-operating with Labour policy review.

It looks as if they’re breaking apart. Nothing will happen while Labour continues to tread water. The Lib Dems are settled into a wait-and-see posture.

They have no optimism. They are likely to get slaughtered in the council elections in May. The outlook for them is bleak, but still they wait and see. Still they wait and see.


Tories Win by-election, blaming Labour for Cuts

February 20, 2011

The Kenton by-election in Brent, North London, was held by the Tories last Thursday, in spite of Labour’s national poll lead.

The local Conservative Party were successful with a “Save our Libraries” campaign.

Clegg has picked up their campaign of blaming Labour for library closures, and he’s taking it to the nation. See film.

Meanwhile, the council of David Cameron’s constituency, “which had steadfastly defended its proposal to stop funding 20 of the county’s 43 public libraries, last Tuesday deferred the decision until the summer.”

If Cameron intervened, then he did so immediately before the poll of the Brent by-election, with Clegg speaking immediately after. It was clear before the poll that the Library campaign had traction.

On arriving in Brent, I was surprised to be told that the Tories were running a “Save Our Libraries” campaign. You would have thought they’d be onto a loser with this one, but the Labour campaigners told me it had so far been effective.

I spent the day in the Indian populated part of the ward, so I didn’t see much sign of the Tories, but a couple of times I got hostility on the doorstep over the local library. They weren’t unfriendly, there was nothing personal, but of these voters were very passionate about the issue.

Premiership football fans don’t care if their club goes bankrupt; they just want the star players in their team. In this same vein, local people don’t care about the reasons; they just want to see their local library stay open.

The Labour candidate Ellie May Southwood increased the Labour vote by 2.8% while the Lib Dems collapsed. It was regarded as a safe Tory seat, so it remains “no change”.

However, there is no doubt that the local Tories did a good job of blaming the cuts on Labour. If this were to become a trend, it would be worrying.


Massacre in Bahrain while David Mellor speaks on Radio

February 19, 2011

The New Working Class Hero

February 18, 2011

Tony Blair reinvented the working class hero to be the kid from the council estate who went to university. But should the modern day working class hero be defined as the kid who finds life easy?
The group of mates I grew up with were forever at the back of the class, proving who was the biggest lad or best laugh. We didn’t do too well in school and all left at age 16. The lads who stayed and did their A-levels were called the “squares”.
However, once we were in our mid 20s, the squares were driving nice cars and buying their own homes, we were stuck in unskilled jobs with little future. Looking around for an escape from drudgery and realising we were failures in life, a whole bunch of my mates did the Knowledge and became London Taxi Drivers. It was the first time they’d taken education seriously.
Labour’s “Client State” was identified by the Conservative Home website in their blameworthy analysis following the election of 2010.
They concluded that Cameron had wasted huge recourses for no return in Labour seats with a (1) large ethnic population, (2) a large public-sector worker population, or (3) many people on benefits. (4) Scotland was also written off.
It was a useful study for us. Previously, when Gordon Brown conceived his core–vote election strategy, no one was quite sure what the “core-vote” was, whether such a thing existed anymore, or what size it was.
The Conservative Home discussion mostly concerned itself with pouring blame on the Cameron camp, but for us, their analysis was a useful insight. They clearly explained to us the sections of the population that they now believed to be unwinnable by the Conservative Party.
Following the election, the Labour leadership contest debated the sections of the population that were traditionally Labour, but had been lost in recent years. This was primarily the prosperous working class: The self-employed plumbers and contractors, etc. These are the people who used to support us, but now consider us to be the party of the poor and of the immigrants, who have nothing to offer them.
I was encouraged by this conversation. I see these people as being my own. I see them as the people who have left the slums of previous generations, but have left Labour behind as well. I see them as resentful that Labour didn’t want come with them. I don’t see them as snobs. They’re certainly not Tories.
I never thought it would be difficult to go after this vote, but I suppose you do have to know them to go after them. It’s really just a case of bringing them back home.
I thought that during the leadership debate, the party had agreed to go after them. However, I was wrong. I was to be disappointed.
I’m not sure if Ed Miliband knows who these people are. Maybe they’re the people you look up in the Yellow Pages? Maybe they’re the people you make a cup of tea for when they do a job on your house?
Maybe the unions are connected to these people? Maybe they can help? I’m sure Ed Miliband thinks they’re perfectly nice people. But I’m not sure if he really knows who they are?
How about Ken Livingstone? He’s a Lambeth lad, so surely he must know. But maybe his Lambeth youth is now so long ago that he doesn’t. Are these the people he took on in the 80s? Are these the people who read The Sun newspaper and complain about immigration?
Aren’t these the people who voted for Margaret Thatcher when she gave them a chance to buy their council houses? They’re not exactly a bunch of Tories, but it is still difficult to imagine Ken going after them.
I wrote a proposal for the London Mayor Campaign, thinking that people wanted ideas to win over this vote. I argued that we should win over the taxi drivers, as they are the people who speak to Londoners about politics, as they drive them from Zone 1 to Zone 5. If a London Mayoral candidate was able to appeal directly to this profession, then he’d have the campaign equivalent of the active Labour membership speaking to and persuading people to vote for him in the next election.
I said that the way to appeal to them is to reorganise the traffic lights at night, so that cab journeys don’t waste time sat at empty junction after empty junction. Lots of American and European cities have their traffic lights turn to flashing amber at night, or flashing red for Give Way.
The taxis would be able to transport three times as many fares for a third of the fuel. This would not only be of benefit to lowering the carbon footprint, but the taxis would see a great leap in their earnings and would come out in far greater numbers in order to get people home from the theatres and clubs. Unlicensed touts would become a thing of the past.
I spoke to a couple of people close to the London campaign, but I got no enthusiasm in response. It’s as if the core vote is now the ongoing strategy.
Ed Miliband will continue to try to figure out his squeezed middle theory. Ken will campaign in the outer boroughs, but seems unlikely to be planning anything bold. The arguments in the leadership campaign seem to have been just rhetoric.
Writing in The Times today, Philip Collins, a former speech writer to Tony Blair argues that it is a “nasty stalemate” with the Tories controlling the south, while Labour controls the north, and neither party is looking to change the rules. He says that the only politician likely to benefit from this war of attrition is the “Westminster schoolboy who represents Sheffield Hallam”.
He’s referring to Nick Clegg.
God, I am so depressed.