Did Cameron arrange the Cable Sting?

June 4, 2012

This is the dynamite question, the one that has the potential to bring down this government. Whose idea was it for The Telegraph to conduct a covert recording on Vince Cable in December 2012? Could it have been the Tory leadership? If this was demonstrated to be the case, then the Tories have deliberately destroyed the reputation of a Liberal Democrat colleague, and the coalition would immediately come to an end.
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Nasty Dave and the Coalition Cracks

May 19, 2011

The penultimate scene of the film “Force 10 from Navarone” concerns the bombing of a dam in Yugoslavia. At first, the dynamite appears to have done no damage, but within a few minutes, cracks in the dam emerge, and then the sheer weight of the water smashes the structure down into the valley.

After David Cameron turned the No2AV campaign into a personal attack on Nick Clegg and then won, but the dynamite made no cracks in the coalition. People argued that the Lib Dems had nowhere to go; they are weakened. It now seems that they are more dangerous exactly where they remain.
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Tories push for permanent split of Lib Dems

May 11, 2011

Speaking on R4 this morning Michael Portillo spoke of his hope that the Coalition will stand together at the next election.

His comment follows a point made by Michael Heseltine that the coalition parties need each other’s votes and that they would be likely to lose if they went for an election in the short or medium term.
Portillo’s remark is the first time a senior Conservative spokesman has suggested that a permanent splitting of the Liberal Democrats, although that is inevitably what he proposes.

R4 Today, LINK

The Lib Dem MPs who are in traditional Labour seats, such as Simon Hughes in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, may be safe due to their personal popularity, but if they were standing as de facto Conservatives they would face electoral defeat.

It therefore would become inevitable that the Liberal Democrats would have to split into Conservative and Labour sections and ally themselves with the bigger parties. Presumably, this would, over time, make the Lib Dem MPs effective members of these bigger parties, rather like Co-Op MPs are equal members of Labour.

This raises the question of how the Labour Party should respond.
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The Lib Dem Collapse Scenario

May 2, 2011

There is such a wide expectation that the Lib Dems are facing meltdown on Thursday that we can expect them to claim a great success in anything that avoids a complete wipe-out. But how will they respond to the worst case scenario? What will happen to the coalition if the Lib Dem vote collapses spectacularly at this week’s polling day?

A political party that gets slaughtered in a local election would have to be suicidal to want to repeat the experience in a general election. So are they are stuck with the coalition?

It depends on what motivates them. They say that they are motivated by principle, so they must be willing to fall on their sword, leave the coalition, cause a general election, apologise for their error, and fight for their parliamentary seats.
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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.

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.

The Cat-Flap Coalition

January 9, 2011

Cat-flap coalition

Forged in the white heat of opportunism, the cat-flap coalition has ended the year with more resilience than we ever expected. Back in the summer, we talked about how long it would last. We underestimated the lure. We thought that Cameron had put out a saucer of milk, but it turned out to be goose liver pâté. And we seem to have lost our cat.
Hollywood screenwriters say that the first act ends when the protagonist passes the point-of-no-return. In this film, that happened when Dave held back the pâté as the reward for Nick committing to £9,000 tuition fees. Nick licked his lips and agreed. Now he is stuck in this movie, and, for him, there is no return.
Well before the election, Cameron told us that he planned to screw the students. But we did not listen. Each time that he accused the Labour party of creating a generation of debt, it seemed like just a rhetorical attack on Labour. Now we know that he meant that the young would pay for the deficit. It was not rhetoric. It was policy.
When we see the Tories bat away the students’ anger, towards the sandal wearers, we do not just see the stupidity of Clegg, but also the trickiness of Cameron. This is what we are up against. Tricky Dave is not to be underestimated.
It is often said that Cameron is hated by his own party. However, they cannot help but admire him. After all, there is nothing a Tory admires more than a bastard. And he has certainly proved his mettle as that. He represents the Darwinian philosophy that they wish to impose on us all: the rights of the individual over the community, the strong destroying the weak, the winner taking all.
The word “coalition” makes this bastardised amalgamation of right-wing ideology and cat-flap Liberals sound nice. Reasonable even. Well done Greg Beales, Ed Miliband’s chief wonk, who told the shadow cabinet to stop using the word. It makes them too cuddly, he reckons.
But his alternative is to call them the “Conservative-led government”. But this does not capture the true character of this bread-roll thrower and his sandal-wearing apprentice, this “cat-flap coalition”.
It is surprising how hard a time the Tories get when they go on Question Time and blame the deficit on the previous government. Whether you like it or not, it was us who created the deficit. But when the Tories point this out, they get booed. Because people just do not like them. They are not sure why. But they do not.
With us it is different. They did not vote us out because they did not like us. They generally do like us. They voted us out because they saw that we were tired. In last year’s election, plenty of people said they would like Labour back after the Tories had sorted out the deficit. They wanted the Tories to come in, do the job, and then leave.
This is the problem of “nice-guy Dave”. Once people got to know him, they saw him for what he is. If he had presented himself as a good old fashioned “I just want to cut your taxes” Tory, then people would have had a grudging respect for him. As it is, he has always tried to be something that he is not: “nice-guy Dave”.
Let us bring down his paper thin, but deeply cherished, image. Let us call him “tricky Dave” every time we can. Let us help people to better understand what exactly it is that they do not like about him. Let us call him “tricky Dave”, again and again, until it sticks.
And let us call his alliance with “honest” Nick Clegg by its proper name too: the cat-flap coalition.
Dan McCurry blogs here