Friday, May 24, 2013


Coalition Spooked by Fears of 2015 Election

Nick Clegg's intervention earlier this week in which he attacked Tory rightwingers for bewing 'consumed by game playing' and aserted that the coalition would continue its vital work of reform and fixing the economy. My view is that Clegg's speech was caused by the rightwingers who are urgiung Cameron to end the partnership with the Lib Dems. But won't they be unable to pass any imprtant measures and therefore fail to continue their vital work?

Well, yes, but the Tory right have never quite accepted the need for those extra votes. Maybe they think that governing via a heroic minority will win extra support; most importantly it would enable Conservatives to be properly Conservaive instead of the milk and water version inflicted on them by the coalition agreement. Here we see possibly the real reason why those rightwingers want to to end the deal: scared for their seats, they want to win back the votes leeching away to that awful man with the broad grin, a pint in one hand and a fag in the other.

Sounds a daft plan doesn't it? It is daft but ideologically committed politicians are often led up cul de sacs because they are so sure they are right. Look at how Labour's leftwing behaved during the early 1980s? They were so sure that swinging to the left would presage a landlside as 'voters got what they wanted'. Except that they didn't, the left had miscalculated disastrously and the result was a huge landlside for Thatcher. Obsessed with the evils of the EU and convinced public expenditure should be slahed and not just trimmed as Osborne has so far done, they are drwn to the well springs of their Conservative beliefs.

Will the colaition break up? Of course, it must some time before the election, but both Nick and Dave are convinced they have to stick togerther as long as possible: Dave because he wants to pass new measures; nick because he hopes his share in government will win the respect and support of voters. I very much dsoubt now if Dave can win and overall majority in 2015 and Nick has work to do to stop his support disappreaing before polling day comes around. Two years is a olong time in politics and the Lib Dems could go down the plughole of popuklar support or, as I think will happen, they could restore some of their old support and win enough seats to be king makers once again

Monday, May 20, 2013


Dave's Attempt to Recast his Party has Clearly Failed

From 1992 when the Lamont tumbkled the UK out of the ERM, Tory poll ratings bumped along at less than a third of the vote right up until David Cameron, with his noteless confference speech, won the chance to remake his party. Following Lord Ashcroft's, corruscating 'Smell the Coffee' report on the party's standing in the country, the Thatcherite Cameron had decided to place himself at the head of a 'modernising' campaign to make the Conservative Party, electable again. Assisted by a handpicked team, many of whom just happened to be old boys of Dave's old school, he plotted a makeover not so dissimilar to Blair's New Labour transformation of the Labour Party.

We saw the cultural distance bridged by extravagant photo shoots and stunts involving trips to the Arctic- strong on the environment; calls for us interpreted as encouragement to hug hoodies- strong on compassion; and an attempt to detoxify the Tory brand as homophobic and uncool. Of course the economic Thatcherism, small statism, low tax and euro-sceptisism were retained. The idea was to keep the core vote onside while extanding the party's appeal to wider expanses of the electorate. The problem was that the Coalition, while ending the party's 13 year power-drought, has also placed the party under immense pressure. The failure of the economy to recover and the cuts in public spending, have done much to alienate voters across the board, while the Tory brand has been retoxified to a worrying degree. Like many parties in a crisis, the Conservatives have fallen back onto their core beliefs and call for more economic austerity and more hostility to the EU. Inevitably party activists are more likiely to do this than MPs who have to be acutely sensitive to how people will vote in reality rather than in theory.

Having seen his modernisation attempt compromised by what he feels are the imperatrives of his austerity startegy, he has tried to maintain his claim to be a compassionate Conservive with his totemic gay marriage bill. The trrouble is Dave's stock has plummeted within his own party, who are beginning to tire of his leadership and are looking to alternatives with names like May or Gove or even Hague. With the additional threat of UKIP washing around the prospects of Tory MPs in marginal seats, Dave has essayed a major push to make his party eurosceptic friendly. The trouble is, making so many concessions to them has made him look weak and no longer in chasrge of his party, as Lord Howe, the slayer of the Leaderene in 1990, said at the weekend. I fear Cameron's great plan to recast his party in a form conguent with the changed society we now live in has foundered upon Osborne's failure to revive the economy and the evidence that, unlike Labour, which began its jounrey into the centre ground with Neil Kinnock after 1987, Cameron has tried to do things too quickly. His party is still locked into thinking that is decades out of date and his chnacesw of winning the next electioon have virtually disappeared.     

Monday, May 13, 2013


Tories Lie to Sustain 'Truth' of Scrounger-Striver Distinction

Much of the Tory case for reforming welfare rests on the contention that a substantial proportion of those on benefits are not there legitimately: that they are, in other words, 'cheats'. This idea, for which there must asssurendly some fondation in reality has been amplified a thousand fold by the likes of The Daily Mail and used by Osborne and Cameron as the Coalition's battering ram to bring down the walls of this particular bit of the welfare state. So we were told by delighted Tory cheerleaders that the mere mention that people on incapacity benefit were to be medically re-assassed, led to a third of them surrendering their claims.

In the same way Iain Duncan Smith-IDS- claimed that his cap on benefits was working its magic even before it came into force:

   "Already we have seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs."

In other words, joy unconfined for Conservative MPs whose reason for living would receive such a crippling blow if the 'benefit scrounger' were to be undermined. IDS, the Thatcherite former leader -well, failed leader actually- who had undergone an emotional conversion to fight against povedrty while visiting the run down Easterhouse area of Glasgow, has based his strategy upon the assumption of the fecklessness of benefit claimants.

In a withering article in yesterday's Observer, Nick Cohen destroyed the basis for this assumption. Cohen asserts that IDS's staff brief the press with 'unpublished figures' which are eagerly disseminated by the Mail, Telegraph and the like. 

   . "By the time the true figures appear on the DWP website , and informed commentators can see the falsity, the spin, the old saying applies: "A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on."

Cohen reports how the UK Statistics Authority,whose job it is to oversees all official statistics, has shown there is no basis whatsoever in the figures to support the contention in relation to the benefits cap. Morever, Jonathan Portes, former chief economist at the Cabinet Office has shown that the claim about incapacity benefits is. according to Cohen, 'False and demonstarbly false'.

Far from being a 'good Tory' as Michael Foot said of Disraeli, IDS seems to be just like all the other Tories, eagerly accepting falsehoods about the lower orders because such people have always had a vested interest in denigrating the poor and disadvantaged. And the public, always receptive to such knocking copy, just lap it up. Well said, Nick Cohen.  

Thursday, May 09, 2013


Queen's Speech Eloquent on Coalition's Electoral Fears

Some commentators, like Simon Hoggart and Polly Toynbee in The Guardian dwelt on the absurdity of the ceremonial. The Queen’s Speech, they wrote, is printed on goatskin vellum. the ink used, taking three days to dry properly, thus placing a time limit to measures proposed for inclusion. A handy piece of flummery with which to mock the arcane ceremonials which still comprise our political seasons. However, Nick Robinson managed to get there first yesterday on his blog and then had to perform an acute U turn:

" I regret to have to report that the goat has fallen victim to the age of austerity. This year's speech will be written on plain - or, in truth, rather posh - paper."

The key point of the event has little to do with goatskin or the Queen, of course, who is obliged to read out a mind numbing 7 minute speech, scripted by Number 10 detailing the measures scheduled to be discussed and then passed into law before May 2014. There were 15 bills included and some of them, dealing with pensions and social care were useful - more pension and reduced social care costs- and even liberal additions to our welfare provision. But the main theme running through the Speech, was not May next year, but in 2015. Fear of doing badly in the general election- catalysed by the rise and rise of UKIP- seems to have injected syringes full of fear into the coalition.

Most political observers saw further immigration controls as the centre-piece of the programme. The proposed bill will restrict access of EU migrants to jobseekers allowance to six months, urges local authorities to give priority to local people when allocation social housing and reinforce the responsibilities of EU members to pay if their citizens take advantage while in the UK of the NHS. Not a world shaking measure, you might correctly think, but within the context of a new rampaging party howling about EU exploitation of British taxpayers’ money, it is makes a kind of sense. It is clearly designed to tell Tory voters thinking of voting UKIP that they are best advised to stick with David Cameron’s brand of measured euro-scepticism.

Will Conservative voters stay within the fold? Well attempts to out UKIP Farage at the Eastleigh by election in February rather backfired and it will be interesting to see if UKIP’s surge is sustained over the next year or whether, rather like that other new party, the SDP in the early 1980s, it fades quickly from view.

Writing elsewhere in The Guardian, Martin Kettle’s judgement of the speech was that it marks the ‘beginning of the end for the coalition.’ He argues that the coalition will soldier on, rather like, it seemed to me, the kind of soured old couples you sometimes see sitting miserable and silent in pubs and restaurants, unable to communicate let alone have anything like a good time. Like them Kettle thinks the original purpose of the coalition partnership has died:

“… the larger animating purpose articulated by the coalition enthusiasts in 2010, the possibility that there was a sustainable liberal-conservative alternative to both Labour and to Thatcherite Conservatism, has failed. The apostles of this view, who certainly included David Cameron and Nick Clegg themselves, wanted to create a compassionate, internationalist, less intrusive, greener and more modern form of social and economic liberalism. True, they can point to some successes along the way, but in the main they have not done what they set out to do – and the new focus on immigration underscores their failure.”

Further evidence is provided by the measures not included in the speech. It seems likely the Liberal Democrats vetoed the ‘snooper’s charter’ proposals to give the security services power to monitor our emails. It seems like Tories vetoed the proposal for minimum pricing for alcohol plus proposals that cigarettes be sold in plain wrappings and that overseas aid be guaranteed rather than remain vulnerable to claims from predators in defence and other departments.

When Cameron and Osborne consider that a 2% increase in their vote will make them the biggest party and 5% win them a majority, it is easy to see why the Coalition’s l;eaders are so obsessed with out kipping \UKIP.

Thursday, May 02, 2013


Has Leveson Been Defeated Already?

Martin Kettle writes an astonishing article today in The Guardian. He argues that parliament, the proper and elected source of government authority has been defeated by the press. Just like the unions in 1969 and the tax evaders in the present day, they do not believe the laws of the country should apply to them and so they have decided not just to ignore but to flout them. The following section sums up his argument:

 "In the course of the post-Leveson debate, a great principle – the free press – has been shamelessly hijacked by vested interests. Freedom has been elided with press self-interest. Press opposition to reform has been brash, heavy-handed and single-minded. Even the extraordinaryall-party agreement in March to put significant parts of Leveson under the umbrella of a royal charter caused only momentary hesitation. In the end, not even the fact that no single MP voted against the agreement counted for anything. The press ignored parliament's verdict. It simply resumed its battle to stop it from coming into effect. And now, with its own counter-charter, it has seemingly succeeded".

He predicts that the charter based regulator will be still-born, spurned by the majority of the press. Looking to the future he sees trhe Tories staying any action which might prejudice press support in the run-up to the election and Miliband, even if he becomes PM, holding back from tackling such a ferociious vested interest while trying to establish his period in power. A depressing judgment but he compares Leveson, who has struggled so mightly; his report has already become as impotent as In Place of Strife did 44 years ago. I fear he may well be right.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?