It is said that our prisons are full of people who maintain their innocence: their jury was fixed, their counsel incompetent, not all the evidence was presented,the law is an ass. I daresay for some it is true. However, one is left with the thought that some of these protestors fon’t’t get it. Society as a whole has determined that it will not accept certain behaviour: we, the people (hear it before?) think it wrong. In our lunatic asylums there are people who think that theyare Napoleon or more likely a hatstand. Try me they say put your hat on my raised arm. There you are I told you so. Who is to say they are not? Well, we might respond, almost everyone.
I am reminded of these truisms when I listen to respondents give their evidence in the numerous Parliamentary investigations on phone hacking. It is OK, apparently for a Police Superintendant to take £12,000 of benefit in the form of an extended stay at a health farm from a former employee of News Coporation if he is something of a friend; it is alright to ignore evidence of phone hacking affecting thousands of people because one is busy with other matters; there is nothing wrong with the Prime Minister having talks with senior Murdoch executives about News Corporation’s bid for 100 percent control of B Sky B if the decision is to be taken by a close colleague; and, of course, there is nothing wrong about employing a former editor of the News of the World as your Press Advisor despite repeated warnings that he might be involved in phone hacking; and what is wrong with a little false claiming of expenses, when surely everyone is at it. Goodness, do these characters live in the same world as me or you? Apparently, they do.
Every day people get done for over-claiming on benefits, claiming disability allowance when they can stand upright, speeding at thirty five miles an hour, and parking five minutes over the due time. Naughty, naughty, these are criminals and they get what they deserve.
What is wrong here is that the ruling elites in Parliament, the Press, the Broadcasting Corporations and the top levels of Police Forces have become seriously out of kilter with the rest of us. We don’t understand. If you are one of these elites you can do anything you like – within reasons. Of course, now and again people are caught out with their noses in the trough. Well, why not, really: they are them and we are, apparently, something else. One set of rules for them and another for us.
The kind answer to a gentleman who thinks he is a hatstand is that you think not and you can demonstrate it by reference to a real hatstand. The answer to a policeman taking benefits and rewards not permitted in the appropriate police manual is, ‘Get on your bike’ Speak up you at the back. I can’t hear you.
Filed under Andy Coulson, BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Disability Allownce, Labour leadership, Liberal Voice, Metropolital Police, Murdoch, Nrws Coporation, Politics, Sir Paul Stephenson
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.
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
It is rumoured that David Cameron insisted on approving a draft of Nick Clegg’s Lib Dem Conference speech. Of course I am neither able to affirm or deny this. Perhaps, if true, the conversation went something like this.
Sit down Nick, do. This speech of your’s. I have some suggestions and I have made some amendments. Andy can help you with a redraft. Thanks Dave, I’m grateful. (pause). There is a lot of this red ink, Dave. It will take me some time to absorb it. It’s pretty simple really, we have agreed that neither of us is going to engage in criticism of each other. If we do, the game is lost. We can argue in this room for as long as you please but once outside the Coalition speaks as one. Or to be more accurate, you and I speak as one. If we don’t we are going to have a growing anarchy in both our parties with everyone feeling they can policy cherry pick. Well I understand that but we do need to have safety valves with room for a few mavericks to sound off. Of course so long as it is understood that the mavericks do not represent the Coalition.
And another thing Nick don’t overstate your claims. What do you mean? Bashing the bankers, Nick. Tone it down. We need them- whatever I or you say in public – to move us out of this depression business. We have a world leadership position in financial services. We need these City guys to motor us forward. No future in widget production Nick. And another thing, don’t make too much of the benefits of closing off tax evasion. That idiot Danny Alexander keeps talking about tax avoidance. That’s legal Nick. You and I and most of our friends practice it. I’ve looked at the figures. Every Government goes on about closing tax loopholes and they try to no avail. Nothing in it Nick. We must not look like idiots. How did you put it Andy? The first rule of politics is never to believe your opponent’s propaganda, and the second is not to believe your own. (laughter).
Look, Nick, I think of us as friends as as well as colleagues. There is no future for you in your sandal and beard brigade. They will drop away. What will be left is you and me and our friends. They can go their own way. They will be happier in a wilderness. But not you Nick and not me.We can go on for a very long time. Keep it simple. Be brave and rely on Labour to shoot itself in its own foot. They are good at that.
It’s a big gamble, Dave. A very big one. They could get rid of me if things turn out badly. Come, come, Nick. The’ve never had it so good.
Filed under Alan Budd, Andy Coulson, BBC, Big society, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, George Osborne, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Lib Dem Conference, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics
I do not like to be thought unfair. Here is a good word about the Coalition. I listened to the House of Commons debate on the referendum. I thought the Coalition got the better of the Labour Opposition and secured a comfortable Second Reading majority for the Bill. Labour had the stronger case but there was no doubt in my mind that the Coalition won the debate. It was obvious that many of the Tories had practiced the rhetorical arts in school and university debating societies. Their performances were impressive. The Tory benches were a sea of respectability and there was not a hairy oick in sight. Can Parliament survive this uniformity of representation? I thought not.
I was reminded of the advice my mother extended to my sisters on selecting male friends (assuming they are ever selected as such!). Look at their hands dear, she would say, you can tell what sort of man he is by the appearence of his hands and, in particular, his nails. If you don’t like the condition of his nails then dump him. This seemed wise advice to me at the time and it took time and a little experience before I concluded that she was deluded. Some of the worst murderers in English history were well-turned out respectable people with well-kept nails. You listen, Oh I was shocked. Such a nice man always neatly turned out – and polite. Always a cheery good morning. But with a black heart madam you are tempted to reply. All that glisters is not gold.
I applied my mother’s adage to Andy Coulson. We have many pictures and images of him in recent days. My mother would have approved. Such a nice looking boy, would you like to bring him home dear, might have been her question. I have never seen Andy’s nails at close quarters but my guess is that he has a haircut every three weeks and while there he has a manicure, I further suspect that he uses a colourless nail varnish. Of course this is only my guess. The public question is did this nice boy when Editor of the News of the World reign over, tolerate and make use of information gathered illegally by phone tapping! For two years I was employed by a national newspaper group. In the trade ‘we’ might laugh and say that the Editors of all red-top newspapers are entirely willing to make use of information gathered by any method. Reporters struggling to break a compelling story understand the rules of the game. Look, Jones, we are told, get your finger out. I’m not telling you how to do this but break the story this week and get on with it. In tabloid journalism dog eats dog.
David Cameron admires Andy. He thought that he would make an ideal Director of Government Communications. From outside I think that our Dave was right. I admire the way the government is projecting itself. All very pleasant and meaningful. In my humble judgement Andy and Dave are tweedle dum and tweedle dee: ruthless, devious, well-organised, thoughtful and cunning, these are a few of the words that come immediately to mind. But what are they warming us up for? Such nice nails, and always immaculately turned out, with a smile for everyone. Well, dears, I say, all that glisters is not gold!
Filed under Andy Coulson, BBC, Big society, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Conservative Home, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Oxford, Parliament, Politics, Referendum, Voting reform