Monthly Archives: January 2011

A Very English Revolution


In England we do not do Revolutions. They are for foreign countries denied freedom of expression and parliamentary government. Is that right? It seems so but the belief in social cohesion and solidarity of purpose is about to be tested. Our beliefs may turn out to be illusory. In 2011/2 real incomes are likely to fall at a faster pace than at any time since the 1920’s a decade followed by slow growth and high unemployment. At that time we took it all very meekly. Then, as now, some thirty percent of the population was doing very nicely. They were in employment and enjoying steady increases in real wages. Unemployment and poverty was concentrated in foreign places: Scotland, Wales and the frozen North. Of course, the unemployed protested, but in a orderly fashion: hunger marches, dole queues and long lines of working people not at all like us. Men, and families, to be pitied, consciences to be stirred,  but largely to be forgotten on golf courses and at bridge parties.

Over the last two years citizens, you know the ordinary folk who pay the wages of the political elites, have wondered whether ‘that lot’ at Westminster are really representing us at all. While hardly anyone wishes to resurrect class war, many people must wonder whether these Old Etonians with their posh accents and monied interests really ‘get us’ the people. Do we wish to pass back to a Victorian condition of poor public sevices and a Samuel Smiles concept of self help and charity to all (sorry some, the deserving poor). 

Well, what can we do about it? Those who object We could start by admitting to ourselves that we are responsible. We allowed this lot to gang up against us, cobble together an agreement that no one voted for, and are busy changing the rules so that it is extremely difficult to get rid of a government in the short term.

I can hear some of my readers objections at this point. Come on now, they say, this is a parody of the truth. Every citizen knows that the huge public deficit must be reduced and the sooner the better. Personally I agree: drastic problems require drastic remedies. But just suppose that the economic strategy being imposed upon us is wrong. It doesn’t work. What if we are destroying a valued social structure and welfare state for nothing? What then? Why, you say, in all reasonableness . if we are proceeding for the rocks we can change course Can we? Boy George and our Dave say. ‘Not on your Nellie’, or words to that effect, Like the Blessed Margaret before them these Old Etonians warming themselves in the last rays of an   August sunset across their playing fields are not for turning.

Well Boys, then we must get rid of you by the means at our disposal. They know it, you can see it in their faces. and the panic measures they advance. Can we the people do it? Can we the people save ourselves? I don’t know. But I do pose the question

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Steady As She Sinks


Imagine the scene. Captain Osborn stands on the bridge of the Titanic as it hits the iceberg and shudders to a halt. ‘Panic, ye not’ , he cries, ‘this ship is unsinkable’. Stay right where you are. It is no use running to the lifeboats for there is not room for you all. It is a feature of the design. There are only two pathways: forward or down. For the moment we cannot go forward but who in their right mind wishes to go down. Have faith. We shall overcome.

Of course, it may not be an iceberg and, if it turns out to be one, perhaps only  small. This is a test of leadership. And communication – don’t forget that. Where is that chap Coulson? He is so good in a crisis.  But what if it is a large one? What if the ship is sinking and nothing can be done? Of course, we don’t know yet. One quarter’s provisional slump in GDP is not not the albatross we all might  fear. Wait a while. Courage mon brave. But it must be admitted that the economic prospects look bad.

Over the last few months, I have argued that the outcome of a crisis is usually somewhere between peoples hopes and fears, that we will not get a double dip recession but rather a long grind forward at the expense of much that we hold dear about the British way of life and a great deal of suffering by millions of people. To remain sane in an insane world requires us to think like this. You avoid the worst by confidently believing in something better. No one can say that David Cameron lacks optimism or courage. But far worse than abundance of self-confidence, perhaps they are plain wrong about the Coalition’s programme of deficit cutting, small government and a Victorian strategy of self help and charity.

I confess to an ideological bias of my own. I believe in an enabling society, universal social benefits and rights and a fair degree of central direction and management of the economy. Looking back over the last two hundred years I believe that social democratic ideals work out best. Of course this leads to some people obtaining benefits to which they are not entitled, to benefit cheats and loafing about. It is a price worth paying. That is just my opinion, of course. I would not have set sail in the Titanic or aquiesced in a design with too few life boats or believe in the invincibility of the Captain. Let us all admit it is too late to avoid the voyage we were jockeyed into last May. Each man to his own is the cry as the lemmings force their way to the upper deck and the life boats. Hold on, where’s Nick, Dave and George? Surely they will think it morally right to go down with the ship. Have they somehow slipped a way to fight another battle on another day.? Yet another iceberg, more confident assertions? After all, surely there is no alternative? Steady does it while we sink.

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Filed under Andy Coulson, BBC, Benefits, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Deficit, Economics, George Osborne, IFS, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Nick Clegg, OBR, Spending Review, Treasury, Vince Cable

Magic Numbers


I have news for you. Somewhere in the murky world of government there lives and plots a numerologist. Yes, a practitioner in the black arts of the occult world of numbers in our very midst. I kid you not, I was put on the trail of this mysterious and unnamed person by a Member of the House of Lords. As you may know, the House is in the midst of a giant fillibuster in a vain attempt to stop the gerrymandering of our electoral system. This Lord – blessed be his name – pointed out the Government’s seeming obsession with prime numbers. Think of it. Why does the Government persist in the notion that the House of Commons limit itself to 600 members, far from the dizzy heights of the past, and flying in the face of a growing population all queuing for the time and attention of their local MP? And why 600? Would not 591 or 617 do as well? Why 5 year and not four year Parliaments? And what number shall we set for the membership of the House of Lords? Not, 861 surely not. Or 913? How about 900? The advantage of 600 and 900 is that they are both divisible by 5. I think there is something sinister, from the occult point of view, in suggestions to the Electoral Commissiion (sorry commands) that each constituency should represent, give or take, 75,000 electors. There used to be a time when the Commission was charged with taking all sorts of things into account : local communities, traditional links the feelings and aspirations of local electors. There is to be no more of this kind of thing. No the numerologist is to have the last  and final word.

I do not think this numerologist, whoever he or she is, has been elected. Speaking for myself I resent his/her influence. Here I must take some account of the counter attack. We shall be told that we all practice the black arts. What about lucky numbers? How do we choose our lottery numbers? How many of us refuse to go out on the 13th of any month falling on a Friday? You see what I mean. Gotcha.

Something serious is happening in the House of Lords. Proceedural laxity encourages independence of mind. Could it be that it is the Lords who are speaking for the people of Britain? I do not expect the Coalition will last long. While it has a majority in the Coomons and members are in thrall to the Whips , the Constitution can be fixed to preserve the will of two political parties. When the Coalition is gone we shall be stuck with a Constitution that is unfit for purpose. So much for a thousand years of Parliament.

There is a solution to the awful Constitutional mess that is being composited for us. The Labour Parliamentary party must appoint a numerologist of its own from the white-wing of the occult. Every black number must be fought by a white number. If it is said that there are three prime numbers in a Government proposal Labour must come up with an alternative which has five. In this way all these daft proposals can be beaten off and the Constitution preserved. If I had the right mathematical qualifications I would volunteer. But you might have them. Volunteer, please, without delay. Your country needs YOU!

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Getting On With It


Than you Charlie for coming along. I always value your contribution, Same as usual then, No, not the whisky. Confidential and discrete. OK?

Charlie, I would like you to report that this is  a government that is getting on with it. All those years sitting on the Opposition benches, listening to prevarication, the ifs and buts and maybe’s!. I made a resolution when we got power we would put an end to it and get things done, decisive, resolute and immovable.

Hold it Dave. Aren’t you running a very big risk. The more you do the less you think. Slap bang. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. That’s very unfair. We do sometimes make mistakes but we are bold people – we backtrack. Take shool sports. Gove made a hopeless mess of it but we changed direction as quick as a flash. Why, you  can hardly spot the seam. What about the things you couldn’t change and can’t put right. Give me an example. Child Allowance and the absurdity of the income levels. Gotcha. Hold on Charlie. We have a budget in three week’s time. Time enough to fiddle it right.

Well done Dave I concede you a few points there. But what about bigger things than these. The NHS reform. All the experts agree that this could go horribly wrong with standards of service falling and at this time next Winter, when you are hoping for some cheer in the opinion polls,  you could have several hospital closures. Charlie boy, you are too dismal. We shall get these reforms right and by the time we get to the polls in four years time the public will begin to recognise our success. That’s the whole point really. Get the difficult things out of the way at the very beginning, endure the sniping and set backs and the sweep to victory in 2015. I learn’t that from Tony Blair.

Dave, if this was warefare and I your senior officer I would never promote  or engage you in  a  serious military campaign. Solidity, caution, a care of casualties , the awarenes that the enemy can be ingenious and resolute. These are the qualities of the successful senior officer. These qualities you have not. Well Charlie, this is not a military campaign. No its not. Let’s take big business. For these large-scale endeavours you have some good qualites: panache, confidence and quick-wittedness. But I wouldn’t have you here either. Charlie, why not?  I think I would be a big success. Sometimes I wish I had taken that route. Several reasons. Over-confidence and a lack of attention to detail, Dave. The House of Commons has cottoned on to that so why not the general public? What will happen is that there will be an almighty cock up on a matter the public cares deeply about. And that will be that Dave. You will be for the high jump.

Too dismal Charlie. I’m so quick we shall have moved on and the public will hardly notice. Have another whisky. Bottoms up.

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The Present State of the Parties


This is a confusing moment for both the political parties and the electorate. Over the coming weeks and months psephological experts wil be telling us what happended in the Oldham East and Saddleworth  by election and who really lost and won. But the position when taken together with national political polls is reasonably clear. For the Tories we are at an important moment. Since the Coaliton was formed in May 2010 their national standing  has held firm at above 40 % in the polls. In local elections they have held their own. Their members and much of the general public supported the Coalition have been solid, for the most part. Over recent weeks this has changed with the Tory poll ratings slipping and now in Oldham  their vote collapsed. Of course, there was the third party by election syndrome of support switching to the best placed challenger to the incumbent party holding  the seat. However, it is far more importan and disturbing to the Tories  to contemplate that the Tory vote in the North among both the working class and disadvantaged sections of the middle class has collapsed. It is difficult to see just how the Tories will win them back.

For the Lib Dems their vote holdin up is a massive  relief. Working in their favour was public distaste for the departed Labour MP Phil Woolas and some Tory switching but nevertheless it could have been much worse.  Why not? I wonder did the Oldham electorate think that it was time  to get at the real villains of the piece, the Tories. And is this how it is going to be now? The Lib Dems have reached an historic low point in the polls and surely they can go no lower. Now is the voters opportunity to  take it out on the Tories. It is not how the script was written.

The Labour Party is very relieved. It was a solid victory in Oldahmeon a rainy day with the Lib Dem activists gathered in large numbers – and to their credit. The Labour leadership has done little to deserve a victory. Perhaps Labour needs to do nothing at all at the moment. Never mind the lack of judgement, maturity and flair of Ed Miliband and the inadequacies of Alan Johnston. Less said soonest mended seems to be the policy at the moment.. Stand by while public wrath washes about the Coalition. It isn’t a winning policy in the long run. It is not enough to repeat the dirge of a curse on both your houses. What did you Daddy in the great war? Well son, I survived. Good on you Daddy. But what did you do next.

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